Category Archives: Father Knows Best

From Frustration to Elation, Just That Quick

It's been a long and frustrating journey, but it's not over yet.

Trey has been playing baseball in some form since he was 4 years old. While Junior has had his successes in the sport, Trey has always been more advanced than his brother was at the same age. I'll admit to having some bias as a father, but I try to take pride in remaining as objective as possible when comparing him to his peers, but I always felt he was near the top and his managers generally treated him as one of their best players, having him pitch a lot, playing him in the infield and having him bat near the top of the order.

When Trey was 8, he made the 7-8 all-stars team, which played in a district pitching machine tournament. He earned a starting spot in the infield and batted in the middle of the lineup for a team that lost in the championship game.

When Trey was 9, I managed his team. When he wasn't pitching, he played shortstop and he batted 1st, 2nd or 3rd all season for a Minors Division team that finished 3rd with a winning record. However, he did not make the 9-10 All-Stars. Only two 9 year-olds made All-Stars and they were the best players from the first and second place teams. The rest of the team was comprised of 10 year olds that played in the Majors Division, even if they were players that were subbed in and out and batted at the bottom of the order. This was consistent with the previous year when only one 9-year-old made the team. We were frustrated by this but accepted that his turn would come the next season.

When Trey was 10, he was drafted into a Majors team. However, it was a loaded team with eight 12-year-olds and two 11-year-olds. The team was great and won the league and nearly went undefeated, however, the coach had a rule that 10-year-olds were too young to pitch or play in the infield. We were really frustrated by this because Trey's pitching and infield defense had always been ahead of his hitting. He was a good hitter but pitching and infield defense were his calling card and gave him confidence that he belonged playing with the best.

Trey struggled to hit early in the season and even had a hard time just making contact. It didn't help that he rarely got more than 1 or 2 at-bats a game as he and the other 10-year-old player split playing time. He played well in the corner outfield spots, but with three 12-year-old All-Star pitchers, opportunities for him to show what he could do were few and far between. We were also frustrated to see other 10-year-olds on other teams given opportunities to pitch and play in the infield. Trey's hitting improved as the season went on, but it ultimately wasn't enough as he was once again passed over for All-Stars.

We were devastated, especially since we had been so confident that he would be an All-Star just because he played in the Majors as a 10-year-old. What made it worse was when we realized that not only had they taken three or four 9-year-olds, but they also had taken several 10-year-olds that had played in the Minors, which basically never happened in the past. Basically, they had changed their way of selecting All-Stars from one year to the next and Trey had gotten the short end of the stick both times.

The next year, Trey was coming off his first season of Junior High baseball in the winter and he decided he wanted to try playing Junior High basketball in the spring instead of playing Little League. When he was 12, he and his Junior High baseball team struggled and his head coach encouraged him to play Little League, so he agreed to do that this spring.

Once again, Trey was drafted onto a loaded team. However, Trey's manager gave him plenty of opportunities to show what he could do. He started at least one game at every infield position. Trey primarily paid center field because his coach felt he was the team's best player for that position and Trey made several highlight-reel catches. Trey also got some opportunities to pitch and did well in his 14 innings or work. He also batted anywhere from 2nd to 6th in the order, mostly 2nd or 5th, and batted over .400 and had an on-base percentage of over .500 while playing in every inning for a team that went 22-2.

Saturday was Closing Ceremonies, when they announced All-Star selections. I knew Trey was fully deserving of being an All-Star. However, after the experience 2 years prior, I tried not to get my hopes up or Trey's. And once again, Trey was not announced as an All-Star.

I was fuming. I knew without a doubt that there were not 12 players in that league that were better than Trey. All the teams were lined up on the field when All-Stars were announced. When they came off the field, I reined in my emotions as best I could and told Trey that he really deserved to be an All-Star but that life isn't always fair. And I couldn't help thinking that he was too young to have to learn that the hard way so many times.

That night, I was still fuming. I couldn't let it go. I had a terrible time trying to get too sleep. On Sunday afternoon, Trey's team was having a team pool party. I really had no desire to attend. I really didn't want to hear from parents that Trey should have been an All-Star. Even worse would be them not saying anything. We were bringing a cake to celebrate Trey's birthday next week. If it wasn't for that, I probably would have come up with an excuse not to go with the family to the party.

When we got there, Trey's manager pulled us aside and asked us if we had any plans for the next 9 weeks or so. We said no, not really. Well, he is also the manager of the All-Stars team and one of the players announced the previous night had dropped out and he wanted to add Trey to the team.

YES!!! WHOOOOO!!

After all he had been through, it was such a relief to see him get this well-deserved honor. It was so great to see his teammates and their families get excited when it was announced that Trey was going to be an All-Star. One of the Trey's other coaches came up to us and told us how happy he was they had corrected that "horrible" decision to not include Trey, and that he was a very deserving All-Star. Mrs. SoCal told me that a number of parents told her very similar sentiments.

Of course, now this means we have a crazy busy summer with Tournament of Champions starting in a week for Trey's team finishing in first place. Two weeks after that will be the district All-Star tournament, and if they keep winning tournaments, they will go to the sectional tourney, the SoCal region tourney, the Western Regionals and finally Williamsport. I don't think Newmark Little League has ever gotten anywhere close to Williamsport, but you never know. This morning, Trey had 0 chance of getting there, so we're already ahead of the game.

You’d Look So Much Prettier If You’d Smile: On #MeToo

What have you done today to protect yourself from sexual harassment or assault? What has your wife done? Your mother? Your sister? Your daughter?

Someone you love was sexually abused as a young child. Someone you love wanted to say no and didn't know how. Someone you love believed she was dirty, damaged, worthless because of something that was done to her.

I have had this post on my mind since the Weinstein allegations came to light last fall, but I somehow kept putting off writing it. I don't need to tell you that sexism, harassment, and assault exist. We don't need to talk about any of that as a dynamic of this community (thank goodness), but I want to share a few things from my own life and share some thoughts about raising kids in a world where sexism, harassment, and assault exist.

The summer when I turned 18 was one of my favorite summers. But thank God I'm not 18 anymore. There is a particular vulnerability in being a young woman that brings out the worst in men. They somehow seem to know that you aren't prepared for it, don't know how to respond. That you'll let their comments get to you. My parents have always been loving and supportive, and on the whole, they did a wonderful job of raising me. But they never told me how to handle catcalls, how to brush off men drawn to my youth and naïveté.

Your mother, your wife, or your sister has almost certainly experienced at the very least some type of low-level harassment. Your daughter almost certainly will, if she hasn't already. And while the experience may have been nothing more than a comment from a passing stranger or a brief hand on her back, the shame and disgust she felt afterward likely lasted much longer than the incident itself.

So for those of us who are parents, how do we raise our children in a way that doesn't perpetuate sexist beliefs and behaviors? I don't really know, but somehow I don't think that simply saying to our kids, "everyone's equal, we're all the same, be nice to everyone" is going to do it. Before I had children, I had a lot of ideas about how to raise kickass girls. And then I had two boys.

We've talked before at the WGOM about ways of addressing consent with young kids. Tickling is okay only when the child says it's okay. A child (or an adult) can say they don't want a hug. It's not okay to touch another person in a way they don't want to be touched.

I also try to put into words when my kids touch me in a way I enjoy: "That was nice." "I like when you hug me like that, it makes me feel really loved." It is my hope that this will help them develop their own vocabulary for navigating all manner of physical encounters as they get older.

After the Weinstein stuff came out, I talked a little to the jalapeño (who is 7) about how women haven't always been treated fairly. That they have been paid less for doing the same job as a man, that there have been a lot of jobs they were told they couldn't do at all. His response. "Well, that's really dumb." Sing it, brother! It feels weird to point out inequality, but my gut tells me that he needs to know about this stuff if he's going to play a part in not perpetuating it.

Earlier this year, I had a rather unpleasant experience with a man while I was waiting in line to order a burrito bowl at a large grocery store near my job. There was a creepy comment and a hand on my waist. But lucky for me, I'm no longer that 18-year-old girl who doesn't know what to say. I turned and looked right at that guy and he asked in a slightly sarcastic way, "Is that not okay?" I said, "No. It's never okay to touch someone without permission." And he left. That night after dinner, I told the jalapeño about it (without many specifics). He didn't say anything, but he gave me the kind of hug that makes me feel really loved.

And yet, women talking won't by itself fix everything. That's where I'm hoping all of you come in. Men have to talk with other men about these things. They have to talk to kids about these things. And kids have to see the men in their lives making their way through the world in a way that is respectful toward women. Because nothing is going to get better for anyone unless we're all in this together.

Thanks for reading, guys.

“Age-appropriate behavior” … or something else?

Question: When are fidgeting, spacing-out, silliness, lack of focus, inattention to detail, emotional overreaction to 'change' and hyperactivity "normal" in a child?
Answer: Apparently, it depends on if those things are causing said child to struggle at school, with friends or at home.

Question: If you find it necessary to attempt to address (i.e., "fix") those aforementioned behaviors, and following an in-depth conversation with an "expert", the first thing said expert(s) identify is ADHD, followed by a suggestion of medication, what should you do?
Answer: I. Don't. Know.

This is sensitive, because I'm not really seeking advice, per se, and my wife straight-up told me that she really doesn't want to tell our family about this (though my mother already has some knowledge of it). However, I know we have lots of parents here, with a pretty wide variety of experiences - both professional and personal - who might be willing to talk about what they know, think they know, or otherwise have an opinion on.

I have a child with a lot of intelligence, curiosity and quality interpersonal skills. Great kid - caring, empathetic and friendly. Also, this kid cannot sit still in class, stay on task, pay attention to things that aren't of interest, etc., etc., etc... to the point that two-years worth of teachers have spoken to us about her inability to complete tasks on time, without continuous prompting and repeated reminders. No surprise there, because tasks like getting ready for dinner, bedtime, breakfast, school, play, bath .... all take much longer than they should, and frequent prompting typically results in tears and overreaction (on my/our part as well).

We want to help, and want help, so we sought out expert advice. I trust experts - attorneys, physicians, accountants, mechanics, etc. I look for the 'best' and trust what they tell me. That initial meeting went well, confirming (but not formally diagnosing) what we'd already considered. However, when the inevitable discussion of options to address the concerns led to information about medications, I immediately felt a panic - "No! Not my child! I've seen/heard too many horror stories about [insert whatever 'brand name' stimulant or anti-depressant(!) comes to mind] to be giving that to my child!" That's all the farther we've gone; still working on a formal diagnosis, but I'm feeling conflicted about what comes next.

What do ya got for me?

I mean, c'mon, even the label warns to "Keep Out of Reach of Children" !!!

(Over)Protective Fathers … or, “Other People’s Kids”?

Editor's Note - Copied an LTE of mine from yesterday that got away from me. I started typing a response, and it blew up. Instead of making a standalone FKB post, when I realized it was paragraph(s) long, I went back and added the cop-out "FKB(?) alert..." and hit "Mail Letter to the Editor".

Context: My daughter is very sensitive & emotional ... like, look at her the wrong way (make a face she thinks is mocking or angry) and she's ready to cry; give her a hug and tell her how amazing she is and she's beaming. Lately, she's been concerned (is certain) that other kids don't like her or are laughing at her. It doesn't take much to break her heart.

We were in the hallway at child care and I was checking her and Niblet into the computer system, when a snotty voice from her classroom (adjacent to the keypad, but out of my sightline) mockingly calls out to her, "What are you looking at!?!" as she's standing there next to me. We couldn't have been at the door for more than 10 seconds at that point. She embarrassedly looks down and away - and I damn near lost my shit. I leaned into the doorway and stared this kid down (7-9 years old maybe? - it's a classroom for various school-aged children, before & after school care) and he sort-of nervously grins in surprise at me, then leans back and looks at his buddy and snickers. Says under his breath, but loud enough to hear, "what's he staring at?" I stand there long enough for it to be uncomfortable, and he just kept grinning at me. So ... I walk into the classroom and over to his table. I stop about 6 feet away, with the table and some other students (and a "teacher") between us, I tell him in my dad voice that it's not okay for him to talk to my daughter that way. Tell him that he better not do it again, either in front of me, or when I'm not there. He stops smiling and just holds his half-eaten toast partway to his mouth. I say if I hear about it from her that he treats her that way again, there will be consequences (I did not define what they might be - pretty sure there isn't anything I could actually 'do' about him being a jerk ... at that point I was working hard not to yell or swear at him). Then I had my daughter come into the classroom, and told him to apologize to her. He did. The two "teachers" and the rest of the classmates eating breakfast just sat there. I was so livid, that I just nodded at his apology and Kernel and I walked out to take Niblet down to his room.

On the way back, her lead "teacher" met me in the hallway and asked if this was an issue that she hadn't been aware of. She seemed very concerned about it being bullying or somesuch. I said, "No," but informed her that my kid is sensitive and isn't very good about standing up for herself (quite the opposite, she shrinks and feels bad about herself). So, if there's someone being mean to her who's old enough to know better, and I'm standing right there, I'm going to call them out on it. I said that no more follow up was needed ... I just wouldn't put up with that kind of behavior.

I'm hopeful it isn't an issue, but man, it was not something I was prepared to deal with. I just reacted to the tone of his voice, and his response to my stare only exacerbated things. I guess I was hoping he'd be embarrassed or something ... I don't know.

There were a few immediate responses:

Zee German

In my head I'm seeing that video of the guy who starts knock-out slapping everyone in sight after something happened to his kid.

Might be a good FKB discussion, but if our kids are out there among...people, we best prepare ourselves for the inevitability of these situations. For the record, my son is usually the super-sensitive one who is now recognizing that he's an outsider in middle school. Tough place to be. He's an easy target for someone who wants to provoke a little entertainment. Still not sure how we handle it.

zooomx.2

Good for you. I know it's easy as a parent to not engage in these situations as we think we may embarrass our kids. I had 2 situations like you describe. One, a kid in the hockey locker room was making fun of my quiet /introverted son. I did get in his face about it not being the way to treat a teammate. I then went to the Dad and explained what happened and described how I handled it. 9 years later the Dads and the boys are good friends. A couple years after that incident a neighbor boy, bullied my son on the bus. We are good friends with his parents, and he is a year older than my son. I called their house and the boy in question answered. I told him that I heard about the bullying incident, and that I was greatly disappointed. I told him that I was giving him one "pass" when it comes to bullying. I told him I would not tell his Dad this time, but the next time he would not be happy with the ramifications. Never had another issue since. Families are great friends. My son was actually proud that I stood up for him both times, which surprised me. Shorty after these 2 incidents, he had a couple situations where he totally stood up and had his own "Christmas Story/Ralphie" moments. Both times, he intervened when a friend or teammate was bullied and fixed the problem. Proud papa moments. I once had a supervisor that told me that as managers, we had to approach conflict like firemen. Rush into the fire and put it out. Don't stand across the street and hope it rains.

Update - No blowback at the school this morning, but Kernel did say the boy had repeated his "What are you looking at!?!" on the bus and indicated both that he is kind of a jerk (her word!) and that she'd told the bus driver. My initial thought was basically, "Well, I can't be with her 100% of the time, so good for her for doing what I'd recommended - tell an adult." On the other hand, we've been noticing a lot more lying from her lately, about really stupid (& easily verifiable) stuff; lies for reasons that make sense to her ... because she's 6. My second reaction was, "Did he really? Or, did she see how angry I was with him and liked knowing [seeing] how much I cared?" or something like that.

Father Knows Best — The End

It’s been fun over the years reading about WGOM citizens as they started having kids and going over the joy and frustration of parenthood. I’ve had a lot of “yup, I remember that” as I go through FKB posts and other discussion threads. I smiled knowingly when Stick would be amazed at how fast Louisa was adding to her vocabulary or SoCal’s son Trey would have another good day out at the ballfield or someone would wonder about birthday parties and how to handle misbehavior. I lived those years too with all those same, and not so same, joys and frustrations. Given that, I beg of you to not take this the wrong way when I say: I’m done with parenthood.

Oh, I still love my kids and want to see then do well and will undoubtedly provide guidance when it's needed, but my kids are 22 and 24. I’ve been at this for nearly a quarter century and frankly it's time they make their own decisions, pay their own bills, fight their own fights. Sure, it hasn’t helped that I’ve been a single parent for over three years now with not even an Ex to help out but I also believe that it’s time for me to shuffle off into the corner and let the kids figure it out on their own. They’re old enough and and I'm not sure I have a whole lot to add.

Luckily, I have two great kids and in the past few months they have officially launched. Frances has been in Milwaukee for a couple of years now but recently moved to Chicago and got a real salaried job in the HR department of Guaranteed Rate Mortgage. So no more rent payments, supplemental deposits, or health care benefits from me. Charlie graduated in May and moved back home in August but he also recently got a job with a real nice salary. He’s going to stick around the house for a little bit and who knows, maybe I can get him to pitch in on groceries every once and while.

Parenthood is a great blessing and while there will never be a day that I’m not a dad, it’s also nice to retire from the day-to-day burdens of being the all-decision maker, the responsible party, the fixer-upper. I can still play those roles, but now it’s only in a limited, or emergency basis. Right now, you may be in the midst of full-on parenthood and can’t even imagine that the end is out there or that you will even welcome it. I’m here to tell you (and I bet Twayn, Runner, and brianS can also attest) that there will be a day when you will gladly handle over the reins. I bet your kids will grab them lustily, looking forward to the day when they can make their mark as a parent.

Now get off my lawn you snot nosed punks!

August 31, 2017 Coffee From The Can (Alternate Reality Cuppa feat. FKB)

Did First grade(!) orientation last night for Kernel. Her reading "tested" at a level behind where she finished Kindergarten, but her new teacher indicated that was a median level for the grade. My wife was still annoyed that Kernel had slipped ... I don't think she understands summer break. Or maybe that's why I'm still paying off student loans while someone paid for her school?

Whatever, man.

Father Knows Best – College

My oldest starts her junior year in two weeks. As of a couple years ago, she had said she wanted to go to a small college in a small town within 4 hours of the Twin Cities. Easy! We were already down to under a dozen schools.

Well, since she started attending high school, she's decided she doesn't want to go to a college that isn't much bigger than her high school. Now she really isn't sure what she wants.

The more I learn about college, the more frustrating it gets. Each school has a net price calculator but it isn't easy to find on their website. And you need to go to each school to find that net price. As far as I know, there isn't a website where you can put in the student's information and it splits out the cost of dozens of schools. Why not? Why not have even more transparency in the cost? The college board has the net price calculator of over 200 schools but you still have to enter information one school at a time.

One other thing that isn't real clear - does it even matter which school she chooses? There can be a huge difference in price but is there really a huge difference in outcomes? Articles like this say it doesn't really matter. I know that it does matter for some specific areas - finance, consulting, some technology areas, etc., but I see a lot of people taking on huge debt that would be better served just getting a degree in the most affordable way.

It will be an interesting couple years. And then we'll start again with the freshman.

FKB – Father Knows Sh!t

I've been hanging around this place since comment #3 or something as a snot-nosed, know-it-all 17 year old. Now I'm 31, married, and have a 4 month old (offically yesterday) at home (a home I "own" no less, after 10 years of vagabondery), and something resembling the beginning of a career. I'm not sure I ever really believed I'd end up here (or that I would want to), and I wouldn't be surprised if any of you said you'd thought the same along the way.
Continue reading FKB – Father Knows Sh!t

I’ll Probably Forget the Card

My dad isn't one to say, "I love you." I'm sure he's said those words to me at some point in my life, but he's from southwestern Minnesota and he's just not the type of person you'd ever describe as "effusive." There was a time when I thought love was supposed to be expressed verbally, but with Father's Day fast approaching, it occurs to me that what I appreciate most about my father is how he expresses his love in the ways that are true to who he is.

Very few of you have met my dad, but he's a character. An introverted physicist, he doesn't have hobbies in the usual sense of the word--unless you count having a perfect memory for the birthdays of everyone he's ever known. He doesn't golf, he typically read books, he doesn't follow any sports. So what does he do in his retirement? He follows the stock market, plans trips for himself and my mom (and anyone else in the family who is looking for a good deal on a flight), and he takes care of those around him.

I joined a softball team the summer after third grade, and the day I got my own glove, my dad and I went to the backyard to play catch. On his first throw, he beaned me in the face, giving me a bloody nose. So much for playing catch! But my non-sports-fan dad came to every game I played and he turned out to be a great scorekeeper.

I didn't always have the coolest toys or the trendiest clothes when I was growing up and we rarely went out to eat, but thanks to good investments in the stock market, when the time came for me to go to college, there was money saved to pay for it. College was also the first time I did my own laundry . . . because my dad had always done it. He would sometimes rigidly insist on doing things "his way" rather than teaching my sister and I how to learn a skill, but hey, at least we always had clean clothes!

Fast forward to Wednesday of this week, which might best be summed up as a series of unfortunate events. Everything is all right now, but as I was driving the jalapeño to the ER shortly before 6:00 in the morning, it was clear that the day would be rocky. Mr. NaCl had a commitment in the evening, and once I got the good news that the jalapeño was going to be fine, it occurred to me that I might have trouble handling the boys on my own that evening. So I called my parents. Both of them were more than willing drop everything to come over and occupy the peperoncino so that I could focus on getting the exhausted jalapeño to bed early enough to avoid a total meltdown. What could have been a disaster of an evening went off without a hitch.

I'm terrible at getting gifts--or even remembering to pick up a card--for Mother's Day, Father's Day, and the like. But maybe that's okay. My dad doesn't need to tell me he loves me for me to know it, and with or without a card on Sunday, I bet he knows I love him too. (Actually, if I do remember a card, he'd prefer if I get the cheapest one in the store. He can't stand the thought of anyone spending $3 or even more on a card.)

There are so many kinds of fathers--and mothers--in the world, and none are without flaws. But here's to finding ways to appreciate the fathers in our lives for the things they're best at . . . whatever those things may be.

FKB: Lack of Progress

We're about two months into the great potty training adventure and . . . there are about 10 stickers total on our progress chart. The first weekend, as expected, had one success and many accidents. The second weekend had several more successes, and we thought he would be ready to take it to school and keep working at it. Instead, he had an absolute meltdown that Monday at school, so we backed off a little bit. Then we went to Germany and his grandmother, who promised to keep at it, ... did not keep at it. Since then, we've had a few successes at school and a stray one at home. He's willing to patiently sit on the training potty and read books for extended periods of time, but nothing happens.

So we bribe successes with stickers, M&Ms, and the ultimate reward of ice cream if he ever fills up his chart. We also make a really big deal any time there is a success to support him. Any other ideas?