Bored at Granny’s – A Holiday Story

Christmas 2020 was an altogether different experience for everyone, I imagine. For our family, it meant far fewer of us gathering and eating, laughing, and holding our tongues at something someone on “the other political side” said over the never-ending election ads here in Georgia.

Despite the fewer numbers, we still managed to get a couple of families together–properly distanced of course. One family did end up with two COVID cases, but it didn’t spread to the other four in their house (including a 6-month old) and none of the rest of us who were around them caught it either. But with less going on, I noticed that, by and large, everyone spent less time at my in-laws’ house. We all showed up; sat around a bit while lunch was finalized; ate; sat around a while until it seemed that we’d done all there was to do short of an activity that might put us all at a COVID risk; and then we all went home.

My wife and I left earlier mostly because of the kids. They didn’t have any cousins to play with this year so it was basically just like being home with each other, only, with a lot less to do. And who needs more of that? Amiright? Amiright?

While sitting in the living room desperately trying not to engage anyone in conversation–thereby avoiding any unnecessary drama–while watching my kids very nearly melting into the carpet from boredom, I was reminded of my own childhood spent at my Granny’s house during the holidays. “Granny” as she let me call her, lived alone. Her husband (a pastor and a drunk) had left her and their five children decades earlier and by the time I was in the picture, all of Granny’s kids were grown with families of their own. Granny spent the next two decades with just herself and Jesus to keep her company and she seemed almost jealously happy with the arrangement. She was a prayer-warrior of a woman, but boy did she love her daytime Soaps!

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I’m apparently “That” parent

Though you probably wouldn’t know it based on a casual conversation with me, I’m very passionate about a few things in lifeSeminoles Football—my family and kids ranking at the top of a very small list.

I don’t have many people I’d call a “best friend” though I have a good number of very interesting people with whom I rub shoulders with infrequently. We can connect as often as it happens and be completely cool with the fact that neither of us have made an effort to go have a beer together, or whatever.

Outside of work, probably the one thing I do the next most of, is spend time either coaching, or watching my kids play sports. It’s a year round thing in our house—football, basketball, baseball, cheerleading, dance—you name it. So in any given year, my kids spend a substantial portion of their free time with anywhere from 5-10 different coaches, and a cadre of assistant coaches, all “carefully” selected by our local city recreational staff.

Overall, our Rec staff do a good job. I’ve coached a number of years, across a number of sports and by and large most of the coaches are just dads who want to be involved. Yes, there’s “Daddy Ball” where a few dads get together and form a “team” to dominate the league, and there’s other politics, but generally speaking, we all have good intentions.

But when you work with that many different people, problems are bound to arise. I’ve had to step in and replace a coach with a drinking problem. I’ve felt obliged to step in and speak with a coach who seemed more a drill sergeant than a teacher—and I’m still feeling the backlashes of that one. There’s also been some very expensive programs where the “volunteer” coaches just want to show up and chit chat rather than actually work with the kids.

And so it was that in one of my recent conversations with our local sports staff, I was told that I’m the most vocal parent he’s ever had—and that made me pause.

It’s true, I’ve filed my share of informal complaints, both as a concerned parent AND as a coach and maybe sometimes I should have given a particular coach a few more days before sending a “WTH?” note to Rec staff, but I also feel like it’s sort of my job, as a parent, to be vocal.

Parents pay a lot of money for their kids to play sports and in our case, our kids are actually really good athletes. We’re not a family that’s just happy that uncoordinated Johnny made a team. No, we’re a family who’s trying to make sure our kids are working with coaches who have the patience and experience necessary to help them progress.

So yeah, when I see a coach working his way up through the league based solely on the fact that he’s volunteering just so his average kid can get a spot in one of the league’s top tier teams, even though that coach is a tyrant on the field who bullies parents to the point where they’re afraid of saying anything lest their child get treated poorly (and stuck in the outfield), I’m going to say something.

And yes, I’ll accept whatever blows back on me because of it, but I detest bullies—kids and adults alike—and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect my family.

My team may not win every championship, but nobody ever cried on my field (OK, that’s not entirely true, but it wasn’t my fault…she was just really tired and didn’t want to be at practice) and to my knowledge, no one ever left my field not wanting to play the sport any longer.

If we win some games, the kids have fun and they learn a little something along the way, that’s a “W” in my book.

When You Wish Upon a Star

ImageIt’s Spring and that means one thing around my house – baseball! With two boys playing ball, one in “Select” league, it also means that I’m lucky if I’m home two nights during the work week. It also means that CareerMom, who works out of the house, is stuck doing the bulk of the schlepping back and forth. She called me yesterday and–you know how this works–asked if I planned on going to my son’s game last night. I could tell by the sound of her voice that there was an undercurrent of hope that I would not.

What happened was that we had an early game last night, which meant getting there really early (coach wants them there 45 mins early), which meant my wife had to either pick my daughter from DayCare early and be late to the game, OR drop off my son at his game,  and then drive ALLLL the way back to get my daughter.

I made it easy on my wife and skipped the game and picked up my daughter and went home. Throughout the evening, my wife kept me updated via text messages, so I got all the benefits of being there, with little of the nervousness.

But a great thing came out of that–I got to spend quality time with Baby Girl. She’s four now and she’s a talkative spirit. After she fell asleep on the couch and then woke up again around 7:45, we spent 45 wonderful minutes on the back porch, under a blanket, watching the stars and airplanes, and making wishes. With three kids (did I mention my friend has five?) that kind of quality time doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, you have to squeeze every moment out of it.

When we found out we were having our third child, one of my fears was this very issue of spending quality time with that many different children, plus keeping a marriage healthy, plus keeping my career going. I wish I could say that I was wrong and it’s easy to do, but it’s not. Then again, maybe it depends on your definitions of success. All I know is that last night was a success. The first thing she said to me this morning was, “Daddy, do you remember making wishes on the wishing star last night?

I sure do Baby Girl. I sure do.

 

Gen X – The Guilt Generation?

ImageIt seems that every generation gets a label these days. Kids in the early 20s now are called “Gen Y’ers” and they are the social media age. Apparently, they don’t have the same sense of entitlement that we Gen X’ers supposedly have, though I’m really not sure where that “entitlement” label came from. Gen Y’ers are also supposed to be more driven, crave positive feedback and generally don’t feel the need to slave 50 hours a week at a meaningless job (bully for them!). Interestingly, they also seem less familial-inclined, which is a stark departure from my generation.

But even though my world revolves around my family, I struggle with the line between parent and play-buddy. On the one hand, I look back on my own childhood–one where I was generally an only child and if there was playing to be done, it was usually done alone. My parents just weren’t involved.  On the other hand, I don’t want the same for my own children, so I DO try to do things with them frequently and when you add in Career-Mom’s near-constant need to get out of the house and do something, it seems like we’re always on the go.

I struggle with this balance. For example today…we played outside with the kids for about an hour, then we took them down to the science museum. When we got home, they wanted me to ride bikes with them. Really? After everything we JUST did…?

So back to my quandry…I want to be with my kids and I don’t want them to look back on THEIR childhood–like I do mine–and feel like all their dad ever did was work around the house, but at the same time, I HAD my childhood already. Can I just enjoy my adulthood a bit? And can’t that mean that I don’t have to play with my kids and when I don’t, can I do it without guilt?

I’ll let you know how that works out. So far, I’m riddled with guilt.