You may wonder how it is that one ends up installing a luggage cargo rack….in the middle of a Dick’s Sporting Goods parking lot…in the middle of Indiana…on the 3rd of July. The steps for such an occurrence are really quite easy to follow and listed below:
It’s Day 1 of summer for 2/3 of my little sidekicks. These are my favorite people to explore with so its on this day that I awake bright and chipper vowing to keep summer carefree yet productive.
And we’ll picnic! In fact, I’ll carry a blanket with me so we can stop to picnic anytime we want. We’ll lay on the ground and make pictures out of the clouds in the sky. I’ll be due for a rest because I’m going to rise early every morning and jog as the sun comes up.
We’ll take bike rides. All of us, as a family! We’ll shoot basketball hoops and play H-O-R-S-E. Maybe they should join that basketball league at the park?
But for now, we have June, July and August. And for the next few months they are mine again. Together we’ll do it all! And we’ll do nothing. I feel both the privilege and responsibility of making these times rich with significance, knowledge and history. Summer is special…..I must make it so.
But the truth is that summer is special just by being summer. Special can’t be orchestrated or planned. Special just is. I can take the pressure off myself and enjoy it…whatever shape and form summer takes. Camps, no camps, teams, trips or hikes. As the thoughts and plans for summer swirl in my head and bump into each other causing indecision and confusion, I make myself another promise: focus on today. And for today, Day 1, we went to a Children’s Museum, created a fairy garden and cleaned out the car….and tomorrow might be the grocery store and a nap. Either way, summer is already off to a pretty special start.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, the words associated with this one come together to form the following story for me:
Over the farm fields of Indiana, a sun set and colored the sky with shades of pinks and yellows before they were eclipsed with darker hues of purple and navy. Just a tease of summer’s sky as warm days still gave way to cool nights on this Sunday evening in early May. The fields awakening after their dormant winter. Soil newly tilled, seeds freshly planted, crops not yet crisp with growth. In the air and on the ground I could feel the change of season…it was knocking, beckoning, but still forthcoming.
After a long weekend spent outside readying yards and gardens for summer, my tired little family traveled quietly through the middle of America. With our wind chapped cheeks and sore muscles, a hum of a Disney DVD sounded from the back of the car, as a hushed conversation between my husband and I filled the front of the car. Ohio to Illinois, four hours over the familiar route that unites my life as a parent with my life as a child. Lake to city, it is on this route, and in these lands, that my family roots have been laid and grow deeper and wider with each generation.
As the sky darkened and the road stretched out, an important statement presented itself, made by my 9-year-old son, “Mom, I don’t really know what I was born to do.”
Fueled by having spent Mother’s Day with two women I admire, my mother and mother-in-law, and by being celebrated myself that day, I conjured up the energy to engage. “What do you mean, Jack?”
I knew it was important to keep the conversation going. It was as if he had tossed a tiny pebble at my feet, and now it was up to me to pick it up and throw it back. He wanted to play, to talk more. In the intimacy of the dark car on a long drive after a tiring day, this was his way of slowly inviting me in. Relaxation fell upon us and self-consciousness slipped away.
“You know, what I was put me here to do in life. I don’t know what that is.”
I took a deep breath and my husband turned down the radio, but yielded to my response. As my son gets older, I know he will turn to his father more often with questions and for advice. It makes me happy for them both that he has this resource at the ready. But it makes me very proud that, for now, this is still my territory with my son. Mother-to-son, rather mother-to-child. He and I share a bond of curiosity, pensiveness and deep thoughts that can be both productive and distracting. So for right now, these kind of bigger, more thought-provoking conversations are still my stronghold.
Our best conversations usually come in the car during a drive. A captive audience for him with me behind the wheel, and a captive audience for me with him strapped in his car seat. When he was a preschooler he asked me how dinosaurs went to Heaven if their bones were in the ground. When he was very young Jack encountered a child in a wheel-chair and while I drove we talked about what he would say to the child and he replied, “I would tell him that I love him.”
It is in this medium that we have discussed race, adoption and marriage for all people who love one another. In lighter moments it is from the backseat that he has planned out who will feed his pet goldfish when he goes to college, and more recently asked about where he and his sisters will sleep when they return to our house as adults with their own children during the holidays.
Its no surprise that as he has gotten older, Jack’s questions haven’t been as frequent. He has grown and our family has grown. With this growth has come chaos and a middle row of fussing baby sisters to separate any sort of third row conversation from the front seat.
So on this night in the cornfields of Indiana, as the sun set on Mother’s Day, I was more than happy to address this statement that made its way to the front of the car and questioned what my son was born to do with his life.
I explained to Jack that he didn’t need to know what he was born to do just yet. That many of us are still trying to figure it out. We talked about how important it is to try many things so you know what you enjoy and what you don’t enjoy. I told him that he can look for some clues. He asked what I meant and I explained that some things come easier and some things may challenge him and that’s a clue. I told him that another clue is to think about how he feels when he is doing certain things.
We talked about how he may think he was made to do something at one stage of his life, and something else during another stage of his life. Interests change and passions change as responsibilities change.
In closing I said that one thing I knew for sure was that throughout every stage, I believe we are made to make the world a better place. I added emphasis to my tone and said that we should always make a room happier just by entering it. We should treat others in a way that will make them smile and better their day. And that we should treat the earth in a way that will make it a better place for animals and humans to live.
As an example, I told him that whenever a new baby is born I always say the same thing in the card or congratulatory message that our family sends. He asked what that message is and I told him:
“Welcome. May the World be good to you, and you to It.”
He seemed to ponder this message and silence settled back into the car as my family made its way from the home state of my childhood to the home state of my children’s childhood. On this mid-spring evening when the blossoms and crops of summer sat ready to bud, I felt another shift in seasons because I know that my son’s boyhood will someday give way to manhood.
When this time comes, I hope that I always let him know that I am open and available for his conversations and questions. Although I know that as he grows he will work through these thoughts with friends, colleagues, lovers and with his own children. But for now, he’s a boy and I’m his mother and this is our thing: back seat questions and front seat responses, working together to formulate our shared answer. On this Mother’s Day drive, I sat back and felt deeply satisfied with the mothering I had just offered to my oldest child, the boy who made me a mother.
A moment later, another statement made its way from the back of the car to the front of the car as this same 9-year-old boy laughed and said, “I think there are crumbs in my underwear.” I smiled and turned to my husband, who was already starting to address it.
May is my sentimental season. Turning the page on winter, blooms and color abound. Green and sunshine return to these longer days. Flowers burst open with hope and renewal. This is fitting since May is Mary’s month and traditionally considered to represent the beginning of new life.
But with newness, comes nostalgia for me and the beauty of the season engulfs my emotions. I can get teary-eyed at any moment: the end-of-the-school-year celebrations, appreciation activities for teachers…even a special day to recognize our neighborhood crossing guard might make me weepy and overwhelmed with both gratitude and the passage of time.
As Mother’s Day approaches I not only indulge in having myself celebrated, but enjoy taking the time to reflect on all of the wonderful women in my life. Some mothering children, some mothering parents, some mothering each other. All of us women. All of us deserving of celebration this month.
My grandma is one of my favorite women. She turns 91 in May and was given a middle name to match the month that claims the birthdays of both she and her daughter, my mother. In honor of these special women, one of my daughters has the same middle name as my grandmother, May, while the other shares a middle name with my mother. These ladies bookend my lifetime and share not only names, but also something else: spirit. Its this spirit that both of my daughters share with each other, and with my mother, my grandmother, my aunts and me. This mighty spirit is a wild mixture of kindness and pragmatic optimism. Its a little bit crazy, very compassionate, relatively funny, a whole lot stubborn and quite determined. As a mother, witnessing it in my daughters can fill me with both beaming pride and teeth-clenching frustration. Yet as a daughter and granddaughter, observing it in my mother and grandmother, I am surrounded with a warm familiarity and admiration. And when I identify it in myself…well, lets just say it can make me blush with recognition and amusement.
The men in our family jokingly pay tribute to my grandmother’s maiden name and call it the “Linn woman spirit”. More recently, we’ve enjoyed the popularity of Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks and borrowed his nickname to reference the chaos our daughters can leave in their wake. When our girls are causing trouble or getting into mischief, my husband will look at me and say, “Linsanity! I tell you, Linsanity!”. We even hung a #17 Linsanity towel in their closet and once in a while my husband drops the reference on me when we’re in a disagreement and my stubbornness is unrelenting.
Like many two and five year-olds, our girls can be pretty unrelenting themselves. As we sweetly tuck these little she-devils in at night, our oldest will ask what’s for breakfast the following day. She wakes up swinging. She’s ready to go. In fact, she’s ready to go, all of the time! She came out of the womb screaming and that piss and vinegar has stuck with her ever since.
While I feel the strong challenges of parenting these fiery personalities, I know it will serve them well. I want to manage it, but I never want to prohibit it or push it down. My grandma showed me by example, just how important this spirit is.
The youngest of six children, my grandma was born just eighteen months after women were given the right to vote and on the heels of the first wave of the feminist movement. I don’t know if she knew what a feminist was back then, or if she would describe herself as leaning in or leaning back. But I do know that anything she did, she did with a combination of spunky heartiness, and good hearted humor. She raised four children on a farm. She gave birth to twins…in late August! She worked in a factory at night and invented fun games for grand kids out of garage sale finds during the day. One such garage sale find was the Marlo Thomas album “Free to Be You and Me” and she held my hands as we danced to it around the dining room. She never wore skirts, carried a pocket book filled with cough drops, was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and worked alongside my grandpa as a church custodian. Bossy, frugal yet thoughtful, she sent out birthday cards, but never signed them in case the recipient wanted to reuse them. She collected extra rolls of paper towels and deodorant when they were on sale and kept them neatly organized for future use. A worrier, a reminder. To this day I can’t leave the house without double checking that the coffee pot is unplugged. Calloused hands and a soft heart, she scrubbed basement floors and made babies giggle by blowing raspberries on their tummies.
These days its hard to get a glimpse of my grandma’s spirit. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen her, the real her, for quite a long time. She has been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years and spends most of her time in a bed in a nursing home, medicated and sedated. In a somewhat humorous twist, she actually graduated from Hospice Care. Yes, that’s true. She was moved to a pain-management Hospice-based approach a few years ago, but gained enough weight to return to her previous form of care. We laugh that only someone with her spirit would accomplish such a feat.
Living several hundred miles away I don’t see my grandma all that often. Sadly, when I do visit, she doesn’t appear to know who I am or be aware if I am there or not. But I go when I can, and I take my children, because I believe that even if she can no longer string together days or even hours, she is able to feel a small bit of happiness and a sliver of familiarity and love for maybe only a moment at a time.
A few weeks ago we visited and my grandma was groggy from a nap. She couldn’t respond as we eagerly made small talk about things like the weather and the wallpaper. She didn’t seem sad, but she didn’t seem happy either. She was there, but really not there. As we spoke in extra loud voices and attempted to reintroduce ourselves, I noted that her eyes always landed in one place: on my five-year-old daughter. The heir of my grandmother’s Linn spirit, and my little “Linsanity”, she skips, she doesn’t walk. With her blond hair and big blue eyes, she’s contagious. She’s radiant light. She’s childhood in a stubbornly sweet, perfect little package.
Making this realization, I felt that the air suddenly seemed to have an almost palpable current flowing through it. As if sending a subtle charge to my senses and whispering in my ear, “This….this is important. Right now. Right here. This is sacred.”
Instead of scolding their behavior (which really wasn’t behavior at all just children being children), I actually encouraged my daughters to continue skipping down the nursing home hallway. I bent down and asked my grandma if she wanted to follow the girls. To my surprise she muttered something that I couldn’t understand and her lips began to move a bit. My daughters galloped and ran and propelled by instinct, I wheeled my grandma after them.
The girls giggled and the glorious sound of delighted children echoed through the hallway. My grandma lifted her chin and showed a small smile. “Lucy,” I called out to my daughter “Lucy, do that again.”
“Mommy, do what?” happily immersed in childhood, laughter surrounds her so much so that she isn’t even aware of its magical power.
“Laugh, Lucy. Laugh”.
She laughed just at the suggestion of making herself laugh. And she laughed and laughed and laughed.
Slumped in a wheelchair, my grandma began laughing in response. The universal language of love and laughter rolled across four generations of women. One would giggle and the other would answer as happiness spread and filled the stale air with warmth.
Unprompted Lucy ran over and leaped into us, giving us a big hug. I swallowed down my tears. “We love you, Grandma,” I stated with clarity and emphasis, as I silently willed those words to permeate their way through the medication, disease and age and find a spot to land and claim as home on my grandmother’s heart.
To my amazement, my grandma looked at Lucy and said in a shaky voice, “Grandma loves you too”. Astonished, I looked at her as my heart begged her to say it again. Had I possibly heard that? This message of love was delivered to her in this current moment. But where was her mind and was this response of love from the past or the present? Was she saying it to me? Did she think Lucy was me as a child? Did I imagine it? Oh just please, let me hear it again.
But of course, I did not. My grandma returned to her directionless stare, my daughters returned to their directionless gallop and with that, the moment had passed.
So this is May, my sentimental month. Its the birth month of both my mother and grandmother. A time when we celebrate the beauty of the world and the beauty of the women of the world. Its a month that can trouble me when ending school years and growing children seem to make time fly. Its a season when the cycle of life is ever present and all around us with renewal and growth.
So in May, the month of mothers, I pause to give thanks for the moment. Because while she has given me many memories and lessons over a lifetime, my grandma has most recently taught me the value of the moment. Someday a time may come when you are only able to live in the moment. But that brief and fleeting moment can be filled with laughter, as long as you don’t let it pass you by.
Confused. Dismayed. Stressed. Distracted. Sad. So very sad.
That’s how I’m feeling right now. I’m sure we’re all feeling some or all of these things right now.
Lingering above my head, there’s this new overarching cloud of grief for the victims of the attack in Boston. And still swelling below my feet is an older, yet freshly planted lower level of despair for the victims of the massacre in Newtown.
And in between there’s my mind, and my heart. On a daily basis my heart is breaking and mending as it feels the impact of terrible news stories both in my city and around the world, followed by moments of happiness that I witness in my own home. On an hourly basis my mind is confused feeling both sadness on a global level and at the same time joy on a very local, personal level. Its hard to reconcile my own emotions as I process devastating images of a family who has just lost so much, then turn around to see my own child’s beaming smile and bright, alive eyes. Grief and guilt pulling one way, gratitude and grace pulling another.
To say its been a rough go lately doesn’t do it justice….doesn’t begin to do it justice. But lately it has been a rough go.
Having lived in Washington DC during 9/11, the anthrax mailings and the sniper case the following year, I’ve been through these times of it being a rough go before. We all have. I’ve felt nationwide tragedies and personal tragedies so the ebbs and flows of these emotions are familiar.
Sadly I know that the surge of these current emotions will, with time, recede to a dulled version of those same emotions. And while they will always be there, never being replaced or going away, eventually they will co-exist with the emotions we like to describe as “normal” emotions. These emotions feel something like happy, nonchalant, care-free and relaxed.
Isn’t it a wonderful privilege that here in this country, we consider the emotion of carefree happiness to be our normal emotion? Like its the default setting, the way it should be. Everything else is an interruption of how we are supposed to feel.
As an adult having gone through some life experiences I now know reality. And I know that this carefree happiness default setting will unfortunately be interrupted at times by personal and world tragedies. I know that during those times I will stumble and fall to the ground in despair and somehow, at some point, bravely work my way back up. But even with that knowledge, it doesn’t make these events any easier, does it?
My children have not yet learned this difficult lesson. They’ve been told about loss and felt it to a smaller degree when a pet goldfish died or a favorite toy train has been lost. They know what a sad event it was when their baby sister died and how we’ve made her a part of our family love story. But I don’t believe at this point they have yet felt the paralyzing fear and anguish that comes in events like the one in Boston this week that make us stumble and fall to the ground both as a society and as individuals.
My husband and I have talked to our kids about horrific events with the appropriate tone. We’ve explained a bit about 9/11 to our oldest son and after educating ourselves about how to do so, we discussed the school shootings in Newtown.
But this time our children have seemed more concerned and have more questions about the Boston attack. Perhaps because they’ve been to road races, either participating themselves or standing on the sidelines cheering on their parents as we run by. Perhaps because the idea of a school shooting is just too much for them to grasp….or (gasp!) perhaps its too easy for them to grasp since they practice lockdown drills and its a common conversation for them like fire drills and tornado drills. Perhaps because this time it was a bomb and the word bomb is something they only associate with war zones, not the streets of the city they visited last summer to see their mom’s old apartment and office. Perhaps because the images from Boston on Monday were gruesome. And while I made conscious efforts to limit their exposure to these images, those images were there from a sunny spring day on a street in Boston. And thankfully, those images were not there from a dark winter’s day inside a school in Connecticut.
Perhaps or perhaps not. But I know in my heart that part of what is contributing to their concern is the timing of the Boston attack. In the last week or so its been a rough go for us in our small community. Two weeks ago I explained to the kids that despite what we’ve learned about litter, they shouldn’t pick up water bottles on the ground at our local park. At a place where they feel as comfortable as an extension of their own backyard, a report surfaced that water bottles were being filled with Drano causing chemical burns to young children or anyone who opened them. A few days later, last week we reviewed the stranger danger talk when reports circulated of two adults attempting to lure children to a van by offering candy and the chance to create a phone video.
Our kids seemed genuinely confused and almost angry! Asking questions like “why are so many bad things happening right now?” and “why would someone want to hurt other people?” followed with a quieted statement that my son muttered to himself (which I knew meant it was really bothering him), “they don’t even know the people they are hurting. Why would they do that?”
I realized that until now I’ve been prepared to talk with with my children about sad things happening, but not bad things happening. I’ve considered myself to be pretty open with communication and equipped to provide thoughtful responses about grief and loss. But it wasn’t until this last week that I knew I was not equipped to talk about evil.
Its not only that I don’t want them to fear evil. Its that I don’t want them to know evil. I don’t want them to ever feel the forces of evil either aimed at them, or against someone else. I don’t want the energy of evil to permeate its way into my household and my children’s happy, carefree default setting. Bright eyes, contagious giggles, uninhibited glee. This is how they were made and as parents none of us want any outside force to stain that or take that from our children.
So when the Boston attack came on the heels of the local events described above, I grieved something else. I grieved the end of my children’s innocence. I morosely thought to myself, This is it. This is the week my kids stop being kids.
This morning my son called me to a window at the front of our house. Trying to gage whether or not this was an emergency and if I did indeed have time to leave the lunches I was packing and the dishwasher I was unloading, I hollered out, “Why? Is it good or bad?”.
“Well both” he answered. I braced myself and headed upstairs to the window where I found an egg shattered on it. We had been egged! Not full fledged egged…just one egg likely tossed by a neighborhood teenager on a night of mischief. While I few nagging thoughts made me slightly worried, I really didn’t feel that we were personally targeted or threatened. Even so, a weight started to fall all around me.
Great. Not this week! How will explain this one to the kids? Someone decided to throw an egg at our window, knowing it would do damage. What is the right way to talk though pranks and how they can hurt feelings?
But to my surprise, the kids started jumping around delighted, concluding that surely the Easter Bunny must have been the one to put this egg outside our window! In a swift second our household was literally springing with silliness and joy and giggling and dancing and excited chatter. My children’s first instinct was that a smashed egg on our window was the act of goodness, not the act of evil.
I took a step back, witnessing this gleeful chaos and thought to myself how I want to freeze it. I want to preserve it…this innocence, this pure happiness. I never want it to be spoiled for them or to change for them.
But of course, and heartbreakingly so, it will change as they grow and both personal and world events occur. My only source of peace in that reality comes with knowing that this week my children experienced their own small level of sadness and trauma. And while it was interrupted, they returned to their default setting. They returned to their happiness, and it returned to them.
Baseball. America’s favorite past time. Both in and out of the ballpark, baseball is special. The sights, sounds and smells of spring, followed by summer….and for a few fans, fall. The bat making contact with the ball and the roar of the crowd, either in person or over a crackly radio station, can evoke feelings of nostalgia, innocence and youth.
All over we hear stories of how love for a team can cross generations. Bond father to son, grandfather to grandson, brother to brother. While I enjoy baseball and so do my daughters, I believe that for my husband, brother, son and father it’s something else.
Just the nature of the game forces an ease among these men that they don’t often indulge in. With nine long innings they are lulled into the rhythm of a sport which gently unfolds play by play. Still nursing their busted brackets, at this early point in the season, April baseball is a welcome change of pace from the frenetic nature of March Madness basketball. Seasons aren’t yet spoiled, injuries haven’t yet happened, trades not yet made. Bright and shiny uniforms. For baseball fans, April means beginnings, April means possibility and April means hope.
When our first child was born, both my husband and I would have been thrilled for the gift of either a son or a daughter. We had a son and I can’t imagine it any other way now. As he grew from a newborn to infant during his first spring, I had huge, overwhelming moments of gratitude for his health and our newly defined family. But I also had smaller, sweeter moments of gratitude over those first few months. One such moment was watching my husband quietly transform to a father. That’s the thing about parenthood…it happens with one big birth moment, but it also happens with all of those subtle moments of nurturing, caring and sharing yourself with another.
As a new dad, my husband would sing to our little guy and coo him. Without a collection of traditional more mother-focused lullabies at the ready, my husband would offer “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to our son.
Take me out to the ballgame.
Take me out to the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks.
I don’t care if we never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team.
If they don’t win, its a shame.
For its one, two, three strikes and you’re out
at the ‘ol ball game.
My husband threw in a couple of little twists which always amused my son as he grew a bit older and as a young toddler knew which part of the song was coming next. My son’s name is Jack, so of course there was always emphasis on the “cracker….JACK”. Later when we learned that Jack is allergic to peanuts, my husband would add a “yuck” after the “buy me some peanuts” part. And “root, root, root for the home team” was always replaced with “root, root, root for the Red Legs”.
My husband grew up in Ohio as a Cincinnati Reds fan. His allegiance crossed generations and was one he shared with his maternal grandfather, his dad, uncles and brothers. As child during the famous Big Red Machine era, he was just a year old when in a game 7 victory, the Reds won their first World Series in 35 years. Family legend has it that my in-laws and possibly my husband went to those games. We have a 1975 National League Cincinnati Reds pennant hanging in our basement, right next to the World Series pennant from the following year. More than twenty-five years later my husband’s buddies gave him a Reds hat with the team’s autographs as a gift when we got married.
So we had a son and I knew my husband was excited to share his love of the Reds with him. On top of singing to Jack, I’d hear my husband whispering stories of the Reds championship games to him, or telling him about the famous Reds announcers Marty and Joe. He talked a lot about the Big Red Machine and Sparky Anderson and just parts about Pete Rose. As a baby Jack had pajamas covered with the Reds logos and a “Baby Reds fan” bib.
When Jack was just fifteen months old we moved to Chicago and a little over a year later when he was two-and-a half my husband thought it’d be fun to take our toddler on an adventure. The Reds were playing the Cubs at Wrigley in an early September game and we could get reasonable tickets at the end of the season. What a historic and incredible ballpark for Jack to experience his first game…..his first Reds game.
Caffeinated and energized we took on a task that now seems rather daunting. Instead of driving we decided it’d be more fun and authentic to take public transportation. Lets just say there’s nothing easy about doing this with a two-year-old, but again, my husband thought it was worth it for his son to see his first Reds game and this scenario was more realistic than a six hour drive to Cincinnati.
Commuter BNSF line to the El red line. Two train rides and we had arrived. The Friendly Confines gave us a hospitable welcome with warm fans, and a sunny day. Jack ate two hot dogs and sat through seven innings. In Chicago, we declared a parenting victory as my husband’s hometown team, the Cincinnati Reds, came up with an away game win.
Fall turned into winter and while “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” continued to be sung in our household, baseball wasn’t such a hot topic anymore until six months later, the following April on Opening Day.
Six months on the developmental milestone scale of a two-year-old is a quite a long time. In this time, our son went from toddler to preschooler. He had opinions and preferences of his own and was able to communicate those with us more and more as his vocabulary increased. Jack grew his passion for all things trains, spaghetti and the color red.
My husband interpreted Jack’s choice of a favorite color as a sure sign that he was a Reds fan. When a unique opportunity came up for us to be in Cincinnati with my brother for the Reds’ Opening Day, we hopped on it. We parked the car, and to say we were walking up to Great American Ball Park doesn’t do it justice. My husband was absolutely giddy with delight. We skipped to Great American Ball Park. My husband hoisted Jack up on his shoulders talking a mile a minute about the significance of this day, pointing out Cincinnati landmarks, and telling stories about how he listened to the Reds on the radio with his grandpa when he was a kid.
Like a scene from a baseball movie, it was a glorious sun soaked moment. One of those big parenting moments…the day you take your son to Opening Day and root, root, root for the home team! With a joking tone, my husband looked up at his son, perched on his shoulders and said, “hey Jack, what’s your favorite baseball team, Buddy?”
Without hesitation Jack answered, “the Cubs! Go Cubs!”. What!? Jack was reminded that Reds had the same name as his favorite color and that Daddy’s favorite team is the Reds. A three-year-old Jack persisted with “the Cubs”.
My husband laughed a bit nervously and asked, “Jack, remember your first baseball game…we saw the Reds play at Wrigley. Why do you like the Cubs?”
Confidently Jack responded, “because the Cubs have trains”.
“Trains? What trains, Jack?”
“At the baseball game, we took two trains. The Cubs have trains. The Reds have cars. I love trains. I love the Cubs.”
And that was it. The big moment when my son gave himself a lifelong distinction as a Cubs fan. It was also one of those small subtle parenting moment when you realize that this whole time while you’ve been singing “root, root, root for the home team” together, your child may have had an entirely different home team in mind.
It makes perfect sense. My husband grew up in Ohio. My son is growing up in Chicago. Of course one might be a Reds fan and one is a Cubs fan. Today, many parents are raising their children in a different part of the world than where they grew up. While they might not share the love of a particular team, the love of baseball crosses generations.
Together my husband and son attend at least one Cubs/Reds game every summer. Or one Reds/Cubs game….depending on who tells the story. My husband teases Jack when the Cubs lose and vice versa. Over the years, its become a fun-loving banter and friendly rivalry in our family.
So while I enjoyed seeing my husband make that transformation to fatherhood in those quiet moments so many springs ago as he’d sing a hushed “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” to our baby son, I realize now that the big transformation has happened quietly over the years. We give our children our roots to take hold, but they grow in their own direction. Because that’s what parenthood is all about….teaching your child how to feel strongly about something, love something, have passion about it and celebrate it. The tricky part is to not tell them what that something is. That’s the lesson for us parents: to simply trust that our children will discover their own something, in their own way.
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