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Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
Editor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.
For baseball parents, those whose kids either play the game or are fans, October is huge—it’s the month for the Major League Baseball playoffs and World Series. The bright spotlight October shines on baseball’s finest teams and players also “loads the bases” for teaching moments.
I’ll never forget the cloudless Colorado Saturday afternoon 16 years ago that found our 10-year old son at shortstop when a line drive off the bat struck his team’s pitcher square on the face. As the boy crumpled to the ground, writhing in pain and bleeding from his nose and mouth, our son and his teammates all rushed to the mound and surrounded their stricken pitcher. We in the bleachers collectively gasped in horror, and then I and another doctor-parent ran onto the field to stem the bleeding and send someone to call an ambulance (yes, this was during the Jurassic Period before many of us carried cell phones).
As the other young players sifted through the pebbles for our pitcher’s presumed missing teeth, our son backed away from the crowd, shaking. He slowly sat down on the infield dirt, desperately trying not to throw up from the sight of his good friend—and his friend’s blood and teeth—now lying motionless on the ground.
The ambulance was there in minutes and our pitcher was whisked away (he went on to make a full recovery, although he needed a tooth implant). But it’s what happened after the ambulance left that changed our son’s life. As he was hyperventilating, his back to home plate and his head between his legs, the coach patted him on the head and matter-of-factly told him to quickly warm up because he would be the new pitcher. Despite his love of pitching, when the coach broke the news, our son looked like he had been the one hit with the baseball. Somehow, he rallied, got his legs back, and took the hill.
My son is all grown up now, a lawyer, and married. But in the years since replacing his injured friend on the mound, there hasn’t been a hurdle or challenge he’s faced when he didn’t call upon that little league moment to find strength and courage.
Embedded in kids’ passions are priceless parenting moments. We were lucky because our kids loved anything that bounced, and sports have always brought forth metaphors for life. But lessons abide in everything kids undertake with commitment, from art, writing, music and theater, to math, science, technology, and history. Commitment itself is an important message for kids. Parents needn’t wait for dramatic episodes like ours to teach life lessons.
Sticking with my October World Series theme, baseball offers mundane but meaningful teaching moments every inning. A runner leading off from base learns to balance risk and reward. A called third strike teaches the consequences of inaction and missed opportunity. Batting averages prove success in life doesn’t require perfection—after all, the great hitters in baseball, those who hit “300,” still get out 70% of the time. Standing in the “on deck circle” reminds kids to learn from others’ experiences, while the fielder in the “ready position” reaps the rewards of forming good habits. “Calling for” a pop fly ball requires taking responsibility for a task, and then following through. The sacrifice bunt…well that’s obvious, as is “backing up” teammates on throws and ground balls. These will all be on display on the national stage this month.
And then, when you’ve passed enough wisdom on to your kids for one evening, pop some popcorn, cuddle on the sofa with your little ballplayers, and enjoy the best baseball of the season.
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
Image via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
I love many things about summer – watermelon, iced coffee, beach days, more sunlight – but my favorite part of the season is going to baseball games. There is nothing more satisfying than leaving work in Manhattan to head out to a Yankees or Mets game in perfect nighttime weather. I grew up going to the ballpark more times than I can count; it was our #1 choice for a family outing. (Go Oakland A’s!) Even if you aren’t a die-hard fan, going to a game can be a great experience, and something your kids will likely remember for a long time. Here are three reasons to bring your family to a game.
- It is surprisingly affordable. Some major league ballparks – I’m thinking of the A’s, for example – run promotions for tickets as low as $1. If your stadium is pricier, keep an eye on sites like StubHub.com for ticket discounts. If you happen to be in minor league territory, you’re also in luck. A family of four can see a game for an average of $62. That number includes four hot dogs, two sodas, two beers, a program or scorecard, and parking, according to the Minor League Baseball’s website. I’ll cheers to that!
- It’s a great way to help stop the summer slide. I am definitely not a math person, but as a child, I loved learning about every player’s various statistics. For baseball and math beginners, keeping score is a great way to practice addition. Older kids can start keeping score with a scorecard and learn about players’ batting averages and pitchers’ ERAs. What does a batting average of .300 mean? How do you calculate a pitcher’s ERA? The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has free age-by-age baseball-themed math lessons on their website for before or after the game.
- It’s not just about the game. Your little one might not love sitting in her seat for more than a few pitches at a time but that doesn’t mean she won’t love the atmosphere of the game. Some kids are content to walk up and down the aisles, making bleacher seats well worth it. Others may want to explore the various concession stands and soak up the scene. Some parks even have attractions to visit while you’re there. For example, Comerica Park, home to the Detroit Tigers, has a Ferris wheel and carousel. Every park has fun giveaways and special days for families. Kids may get a collectable bobblehead or the chance to run around the bases. Check your team’s schedule before you buy those tickets. Also, anyone can go early to watch the team practice (and maybe even sneak in an autograph or a wave from a player).
However your family experiences the game, everyone is sure to have a blast. Going to a game is fun, educational, and an amazing bonding opportunity. I may be a girly-girl when it comes to most things, but some of my greatest summer memories are at the ballpark.
How does your family celebrate summer?
Never have a dull moment with our activity finder and shop baseball gear.
Image via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
The New York Mets are—and I say this with all the love and frustration of a lifelong fan—a woeful team that even the most optimistic among us expect to have a lousy year. So, of all the players on the team, why is second baseman Daniel Murphy taking heat from sports commentators? Because he missed the first two games of the new season, taking a paternity leave to be there for the birth of his son.
Yes, you read that right. Two games. To be at the birth of his son. And here’s what that oh-so-lengthy absence left some well-known sports-radio personalities saying, according to the New York Daily News:
“Assuming the birth went well, the wife is fine, the baby is fine, 24 hours and then you get your ass back to your team and you play baseball.”
And from another: “One day [off] I understand. And in the old days they didn’t do that. But one day, go see the baby be born and come back. You’re a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help.”
For dads, how long to take off after baby’s birth can be a tough call. Despite the fact that the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees up to 12 unpaid weeks of leave for men and women alike, not many fathers take more than a few days off when their little one arrives. There’s pressure from employers to contend with, and the self-imposed pressure (real or imagined) of wanting to be seen in the best light at work, not to mention cultural forces about men’s roles to content with. And, of course, unpaid leave is an economic pressure for nearly everyone and an impossibility for many—major-league ballplayers excluded.
To slam Murphy’s two-game leave as treasonous is absurd. Here’s what he had to say to ESPN about the brouhaha, referring to his wife and his desire to be there for her:
“It’s going to be tough for her to get up to New York for a month. I can only speak from my experience — a father seeing his wife – she was completely finished. I mean, she was done. She had surgery and she was wiped. Having me there helped a lot, and vice versa, to take some of the load off…. It felt, for us, like the right decision to make.”
While he was away, I am sure Murphy was thinking of his team often and even missing them, just as he will be thinking of his newborn back home as he dedicates himself to his team for the remainder of the season. Finding the right work-life balance is no easier for a multimillionaire baseball player than it is for you and me, and we all feel torn between our commitments to our families, our jobs, and ourselves.
I struggled with these issues as well. Taking two weeks off when each of my daughters was born was a no-brainer. But now, as my wife heads back to work after her own five-month maternity leave, I am on the threshold of a longer paternity leave—five weeks, starting Monday. Making the decision to take the time off involved a lot of intense discussions with my wife and internal soul-searching about what is most important to me and how I want to spend and remember this time in my life. Stepping back, even for a few weeks, from a job that is busy and that means a lot to me, is scary, and it remains something that is never easy.
Far from criticizing Murphy’s leave, we should be celebrating it. The more of us who take time to be with our families, the better it is—for ourselves, our kids, and our wives or partners. And the more men who take paternity leave, the better it will be for all new fathers, because over time, it will become normal and expected, not something to criticize or even remark on. Especially seeing athletes do it, those most manly of professionals, will hopefully encourage others to do the same. Yes, there are occasionally things that are more important than supporting the team. Instead of criticizing, let’s look to a future in which taking time to be with our kids is the norm, not the exception, and in which a mere two days is laughably short.
See you in May. Until then, I’m off daddying.
Murphy and his wife named their newborn Noah. Try our Baby Name Finder to discover the perfect name for your newest addition!
Image: New York Mets Daniel Murphy and wife Victoria Tori Ahern attend the Aces, Inc. All Star party at Marquee on July 14, 2013 in New York City via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, October 1st, 2013
Editor’s Note: In a post for an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month. He will be offering different advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.
For sports fans, October means more than beautiful fall colors and earnest trick-or-treaters. October is World Series time, and for our family, the end of each baseball season brings a special nostalgia.
When our kids were young, our yard was the field of dreams. Although now the grass is almost fully grown in where the base paths used to be, the kids once wore them so raw the diamond shape of the infield was the first thing people noticed when they visited. “Pitch and Run,” the kids used to call it, their backyard version of the great American pastime. The bases themselves were well-defined bald spots in the lawn where the base paths ended on each corner. The fences defined the foul balls and the home runs. A tennis ball, a soft-core bat, and mitts were all we needed.
The legends that grew from our backyard diamond live in all our memories to this day. There was the all-time world record number of consecutive home runs over our east fence. And the all-time world record number of home run balls that were hit all the way over Grape Street onto the neighbor’s lawn across the street. There was the ethereal tennis ball that was hit so high and so far that it was never found – until we opened the fireplace flue the next winter. There was Mr. W, the man who angrily got out of his car after a home run ball struck it while he was driving on Grape Street. (Turns out he was an old friend of my father’s, so he quickly forgave them.) And there was the tennis ball that was hit so hard it put a spiderweb crack in the shatterproof glass of the upstairs window. Then there was the mean neighbor to the south, the one who never said a word to us except when the screaming in our yard would crescendo, who came out in the middle of a game one day, terrifying the kids, and silently tossed three tennis balls back into the yard, only to leave as quietly as he had come.
This was an entirely egalitarian ball field. Our daughter and her friends joined the game whenever Barbie and Ken needed a rest. When the girls played, our boys hit left-handed – not so much to give the girls an edge (the boys would never give anyone an edge in baseball or any other competition), but because that gave them bragging rights to the all-time world record number of consecutive left-handed home runs over the east fence. Our daughter learned well. With her brothers watching many years later, she hit the game-winning single that clinched the intramural coed softball championship in college.
When the kids are home from college and grad school now, we still “have a catch” in the backyard. We reminisce about “Pitch and Run” and all the world records that will never be broken. At least until they someday bring their own kids to Grandma and Grandpa’s backyard to wear out the grass again.
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
Image: A white used baseball on fresh green grass via Shutterstock.
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