I’m not sure how many times I can write about how important baseball is to me and the fabric of my family. Go back and read things that I’ve written about my grandfather. We shared so many amazing experiences through baseball and those amazing experiences don’t lessen at all even as time goes by. In fact the feeling of extreme happiness and family connection is only heightened as each my sons experience the same firsts as I did so many years ago through “America’s Past Time.”
This time it was Oliver’s turn to don his first jersey and baseball cap, to slip on a pair of cleats and take a few hacks in the batter’s box. The smile on his little face when he was handed his first jersey, pulled on his hat and walked out onto the field was indescribable. He might as well been in heaven (not Iowa).
I watched this tiny little baseball player so excited to figure out where to stand in the infield and how to run the bases. I won’t lie, I was nervous. Oliver can not stand in one place for longer than a nanosecond, and I’m sure he would have been the kid in the field chasing butterflies and/ or picking dandelions (or at least chasing the kid who’s chasing the butterflies).
However, he was anything but disinterested. He was the one who was first in line to bat, first to put his glove on and run out into the field and the first to give coach knuckles after the game. He loved every second of being with his friends, being in the field and getting to wield a giant metal bat without repercussions.
He may be a few years away from really understanding the intricacies of the game and maybe even a few years from that before he understand how important baseball is to me. But today was about him.
Hopefully as he grows he’ll be able to enjoy the game as much as I did when I played and more importantly how much I enjoyed the time I spent with my grandfather as we experienced the game together, because there is nothing that compares to being able to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in you arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases … stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third and wrap your arms around the bag.
Hopefully one day he’ll get it, but for now, he enjoys being out there… maybe it’s just about getting dirty, but he enjoys it nonetheless.
Apparently this whole Covid lockdown thing has driven people to want to remodel and do construction to their house the likes that no one has ever seen before. Many things have been put on hold due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but home renovations aren’t one of them. I see neighbors putting in new decks, ripping out old cabinetry and installing new HVAC units left and right. How people are not going bankrupt with all this going on is beyond me.
While I understand most of the world is concerned for their health and well being and you and your family are just trying to get through each day right now… someone here is planning to turn the boys’ bedrooms into a reincarnation of the Palace of Versailles. The thing is I’m totally not up for making decisions about anything at the moment that includes random people making messes around my house that I (for all intents and purposes) can’t leave for more than a few hours at a time.
The thing is… I want to be able to be agreeable and more importantly help… maybe even take on these home projects myself (even if they are far from DIY). I wish I could. I try. I’ve done a lot recently… some plumbing and electrical, but I’m not so sure I should be the one operating a circular saw.
Even my boys know this. They tattle on me if I use a hammer around the house and god forbid I break out the screw gun. I wish I could do more. I have friends like this. They can just build an house in a weekend. I’ve gone to his house and he’ll hand me a beer and ask me to check out his new shed.
“Wait, you built a shed? When?” I’ll ask.
His response, calm, cool and collected,
“Today… I finished before you got here.”
“It’s 11:30am!!!” I’ll reply. Dejected.
Today… he built a shed today… I ran a few miles… maybe answered some emails… but he built an arc to save the animal kingdom overnight. I’m just not there yet. I built a bar/table for the basement. I’ve hung a couple of shelves and installed some blinds. But I’m just not ready to drive a flatbed truck and use saw dust as cologne.
I’m trying. I’m not perfect. But at some point we’ll have a new front door and maybe a shed. Hopefully I’ll come out of all of this with all ten fingers and the majority of my 401k.
We’re still riding out a pandemic of epic proportions and yet there’s some hope for normalcy around the corner. I’m fully vaccinated. Stef is waiting for her second dose… the kids wear their masks like they would wear a pair of gloves in the winter. They wash their hands and use sanitizer like it’s their job. It’s no big deal to them anymore.
So today we ventured out as a family. Still masked up, sanitizer and Clorox wipes at the ready, but we decided to (god help us) go to the mall. I mean the grocery store, or a gas station during this pandemic is one thing, but the mall? It was a stretch, but we needed to get out of the house and to pick up a few things for the upcoming baseball season for the boys.
Oliver has never been to the mall, Jax has been maybe twice when he was in a stroller. This was like releasing to sharks into blood infested waters. I feel like I’d have more control over two monkeys released in a banana favorite (are banana factories real). If was insanity, but we survived. All children were accounted for upon our exit from the depths of hell and mom and dad are still talking to each other.
It was a successful day if you ask me.
The three stages of mall shopping:
1. In awe of the sheer size of the place you are in. The entire scene seems like a surreal version of supermarket sweep.
2. Enjoying perusing the many stores and exciting events. It’s like a carnival and a zoo had a baby. You see something you like, give the workers a plastic card and it’s yours!
3. All of the days hard work cumulates in being driven home snug in your car seat while dreaming of your next trip to shopping heaven (or as dad calls it… hell)!
It’s been 20 years since the first time I wished you a happy birthday. I think I bought you a pair of plaid Abercrombie pants and a six pack of Smirnoff Ice. I probably took you to Olive Garden or Applebee’s and I’m sure we saw a movie afterwards.
It’s been years since that Olive Garden date and a long time since our time was our time. It’s no longer about birthday months or even birthday weekends anymore. As working parents we are tasked with so much more than just being a mom or dad. Parenting can feel isolating and lonely with its constant demands. Yet, somehow we balance it even if it’s not always perfect.
In my short stint as a parent, I’ve already wondered, more times than I like, if I’m doing it right, but one thing I do know is it’s hard. Yet somehow, even in the toughest times including giant tantrums or the occasional full on crying until they pass out, you stay strong. I appreciate you staying strong even when I’m a pain in the ass or act like your third child (or fifth if you count the dogs… then again at least I don’t pee or poop on the floor)!
You may not see it, but you are strong. You are strong for them… Jackson and Oliver will never forget that. It will make them strong and caring and most importantly, empathetic.
Twenty years later, the birthday presents that were plaid pants and Smirnoff may have turned into a teakettle for your night time chai and a travel coffee mug for your long commute after a Board of Eduction meeting… and dinner and a night cap has transformed into standing over a pot of Mac and Cheese and watching Frozen 2 for the 700th time… but no matter what, I loved you then and love you everywhere in between those Abercrombie pants and the teakettle.
Imagine this: your dad knows every teacher you have, used to work with them and even evaluate some of them, knows your schedule (because he was on the team that created those schedules and hirings, knows the curriculum like the back of his hand, and know that you’re learning virtually has the ability to walk into your class at any given moment. In other words, your dad is the boss at school and at home.
You think virtualing leaning is tough? Try being the kid of an elementary school principal!
Another year has come and gone, yet this one, this year specifically is like none other that any of us have ever experienced. This year you spent almost all of 12 months in lockdown. The Corona Virus Pandemic and this Quarantine led the way for an unprecedented time for a three year-old to grow up.
However, this day isn’t about viruses, Covid, or vaccinations. It is about you. A little boy who seems to have grown three feet over the past year. While you still might spell your first name with two Ls and forget the numbers 13 and 14 when you count (and maybe say your favorite number is “blue”), you have developed into a voracious reader, who can’t get enough Chica Chica Boom Boom or Paw Patrol.
You have survived as the second child, which has to be so difficult… just ask your uncle Vinny. The thing is, you are forging your own path. You aren’t just a shadow of someone else, you have your own personality. You are hilarious, energetic and so incredibly brave. Braver than I think I could ever be (I’m scared that the bravery is just craziness, but that’s for a different blog entry). You follow your brother’s lead when you want to, but also kick him down the stairs when you want to lead the way.
I watch how others act around you and how they they react to you. Your aura is invigorating. You can turn a lazy, snowy Sunday by the fire into a dance party. You can raise anyone’s spirit, even after the most stressful day… and for that I owe you. You make being a dad so worthwhile. You make being your dad so rewarding… and for that I owe you more than you’ll ever know.
Oliver Peter, keep asking questions and defying the odds, keep trying things that other people don’t think are possible, but most of all… keep being you.
Happy 4th Birthday.
I love you,
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” -Albus Dumbledore