Inspiration operates on her own timetable. She demands determined faithfulness to one’s craft, whatever that craft may be — writing, art, music, or any other worthwhile activity under the sun. Inspiration also has a mischievous sense of humor whispering late at night and early in the morning and almost always in the middle of my pastor’s sermon.
For Christmas of 2017, my youngest daughter gave me a baseball. On this baseball, carefully handwritten, were the words, “Dad, Wanna play catch?”
I grew up playing catch with my dad. From second grade through age 16, the pop of leather and feeling of the seams beneath my fingertips provided the foundation for our relationship. My skills peaked as a benchwarmer for the junior varsity team of Kickapoo High School, but my love for the game has only increased in the decades since.
I love playing catch. I love everything it represents and teaches about life. Cooperation above competition. Establishing a relationship of trust. Freedom from technology. Focus on life in the present tense. Playing catch engages all the senses and delights the soul and leaves you with sore muscles and funny tan lines. As G. K. Chesterton said, “The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.”
On January 1, with the wind chill at 1 degree, Sophie and I put on a half dozen layers and went to the field to play catch. There were no real rules, although we stayed until each of us threw the ball 30 times. My hand wouldn’t fit inside my favorite glove with a glove underneath, so I felt the full effects of the temperature on my bare hands. That afternoon, just a couple degrees warmer, I stepped into the backyard with my oldest daughter Kaylea for my second game of catch on the first day of the year.
And then Inspiration whispered. Why not play catch every day for an entire year?
No one ever said anything about inspiration making sense.
Two of my mantras are “Baseball brings people together,” and “Baseball tells the best stories.” Playing catch every day felt like a natural way to truly test those mantras. Ten-year old me couldn’t wait to get started. Forty-three year old me worried about my arm falling off.
Now six months into this ridiculous catch-playing adventure, I am passionate about taking risks to reach out and connect with new friends. My family took one 2,000 mile trek throughout the Midwest playing catch and making friends and are preparing to go on a second one in just a few days. None of this makes much sense and it definitely doesn’t make any cents, but we are creating epic memories in the process. From the beauty of the falls in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to meeting a player from the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, this is a year defined by play.
Ethan Bryan is a storyteller whose narratives explore what it means to live a good story. He is the author of ten books including America at the Seams, a coffee table book that sold more than 2,000 copies in the first month, as well as a couple of children’s picture books.
His writings earned him an opportunity to speak at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, an invitation to the White House for the Royals World Series championship, and endorsements from several former MLB players including Jim “The Rookie” Morris.
Bald since the age of six, Ethan knows about overcoming personal obstacles and being bullied. He also understands the power of hope, persevering through hundreds of manuscript rejections.
A major fan of both Dr Pepper and chocolate donuts, Ethan’s catch-playing stories can be found here: https://whisperedwriting.wordpress.com/
Some families go somewhere on vacation in the summer. Some prefer a “stay-cation.” And some use the precious months of June, July and August to pack up everything they own and move half-way across the country.
In last week’s Good Dads Podcast we caught up with Alex and Miriam Green who are preparing to move from a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts to a city near Nashville, Tennessee. The Greens have elected to use a moving service where they pack the truck and someone else drives it to the new location where they then unpack it. They’ve lived in the Boston area for about three years and are trying to squeeze in as many visits with friends, birthday celebrations (four of the six of them have birthdays in a one-month period) and trips to the ocean as possible before they head west toward the Midwest.
This week we touch base with Minor and Sarah Baker who are moving from Austin, Texas to Springfield, Missouri. The Bakers chose to pack all their belongings into a pod, which will be delivered to their new home near the end of June. In the interim, they’ve been living first with Sarah’s parents and then Minor’s, waiting for the dust to settle and their new home to become available—not an easy task for a family with four kids and two dogs.
The Bakers’ departure from Austin is bittersweet for them. They’re excited about moving to a new community with new jobs. They like the thought of having both sets of grandparents nearby. Nonetheless, they’ve spent the last twelve years of their lives in Austin where all four of their children were born and they owned their first home. Along with the stress of packing, there’s the emotion of saying good-bye to many happy memories. Sometimes, in the midst of heat, humidity and hot-pod-packing it can all be a bit too much.
What have they done, we wondered, to get themselves and their kids through this taxing period? Here’s what we learned from Minor and Sarah:
1. Embrace friends and family while you’re packing—especially if they offer to help. Ask them to keep an eye on your kids. Sarah noted what a godsend this was in the last nerve-wracking days of emptying the house into the pod.
2. Save room for couple time. Minor and Sarah agree that it may sound a bit odd to be planning a date night in the midst of moving, but they view it as an energizing essential to keep them going and reward them at the end of a long day. They agree that a little bit of fun for the two of you helps keep things in perspective.
3. Find some local stuff to do as advance preparation. Minor mentioned how much he has enjoyed reading the Springfield News-Leader and listening to podcasts originating in the region as preparation for life in a new context. Both agree it’s helpful and exciting to become familiar with your new community before you leave the previous one. Saying good-bye can be hard, so it’s nice to do something that helps build the anticipation for living in a new location.
4. Rent first; then buy. Initially the Bakers wanted to move from their home in Austin to a new home in Springfield. They could’ve done it. They sold their house and had a down payment in hand. However, after considerable thought and discussion they determined it might be best to actually live in their new city for a bit before committing to a new home and neighborhood. While moving twice can be a pain, Minor and Sarah decided it was a less stressful decision for them than trying to decide quickly on a new home 600 miles from their new location.
Most people don’t look forward to uprooting from one locale and re-rooting in a new area, but listening to couples like the Greens and the Bakers does help. Taking care of yourself and your couple relationship all go a long way to helping your kids embrace the experience of moving and the adventure of a new community where you'll hopefully be building happy new memories for years to come.
If you have been parenting for even a minute, your world has been bombarded with all sorts of advice on what you should do. Good dads know that they are to model love, laughter, and good work ethics. Not only do good dads know these are essential, but we strive to show them to the best of our ability. When one or all of these things seem to take hold in one of our kids, we celebrate. We are thrilled, even a little proud that we could play such a positive role in their overall development as a human being.
But, what about the things we should be doing that aren’t so “good looking” on the surface? Sometimes, dads need to be willing to be what the world might deem “unattractively transparent” so that kids can learn some pretty deep life lessons. It is with this mindset that I think of three things in particular that our kids should see us doing, but often some things that make us feel pretty uncomfortable.
As parents, especially dads, we can have this innate desire to be seen as “superheroes” in the eyes of our young. Always the one with the great advice, the right answer, the solution to any and all problems. Always the one to swoop in and make things look easy. But, is that real life? And, more importantly, will our kids always be in situations where someone else will save the day? Struggle is part of life…real life…any life. If our kids never see us struggle, they will never have the opportunity to see us persevere. The ability to persevere in spite of challenging circumstances is a much-needed skill in order to be successful, but many young people lack it. It’s okay to let your kids see you struggle, as long as they see you persevere through it.
Yup. I said it. Kids should see their dads cry. They also should see them laugh. Maybe not every second of every day, but crying and laughing are part of the emotional coping process. Now, you may not be the crying type and I can’t say I have cried that many times in front of my boys over the past almost 30 years, but they have certainly seen the eyes water on a few occasions. It isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of life. Let the kids know your emotional lights are on, somebody is home, and that somebody knows how to cope with the heartache and joy this life presents.
I will be the first to admit it, before my wife and kids can…I have a hard time saying I am wrong. But, admit I must, for wrong I often am. If you look around, ours is a culture in which many have a hard time conceding fault. Taking responsibility is not something humans tend to want to do. How critical it is for our sons and daughters to witness us not only making mistakes, but also owning up to them. We must exhibit the humility necessary to say, “I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me so that we can continue to live and love and work together?” Can you imagine if every person on social media possessed this skill? Our world would forever be changed. And in a good way. Dad’s, this kind of behavior gives our kids an example and experience to be the kind of adult people that will be skilled to develop deep relationships.
So, as you ponder the things to let your kids see…and not see…remember to let them see you struggle, cry, and apologize. This just might lead to kids who can readily persevere, cope, and humbly get along with everyone else on the planet.
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at email@example.com
There's so much good information in The Boy Crisis by Warren Farrell PhD and John Gray, PhD that we could devote the contents of the Real Good Dads blog to it for the next six months. At the same time, we do have other topics we want to cover and writer dads we want to hear from. With that in mind, I want to cover one last topic that also coincides with our latest podcast with Dr. Farrell, namely the importance of the roughhousing dads do to their child's development.
I’m a mom, so I’m very familiar with those anxious pangs occurring when my husband went what I considered as “over the top,” wrestling with our children.
“Somebody’s going to get hurt,” I might said. “Keep it down,” I instructed. “Watch what you’re doing. You’ll be sorry when someone starts crying.”
Typically, my instructions and suggestions were ignored. Our kids loved wrestling matches with their dad. In fact, they begged for them. In their minds, the more full-body contact the better. If these episodes also involved a bit of danger and risk, e.g., being thrown in the air and flung over water, so much the better. I see the same sort of behavior with all eight of our grandchildren and their fathers.
According to Dr. Farrell, “Researchers consistently find that fathers who spend time with
their children give their children the gifts of self-control and social skills” (p. 145). He believes that roughhousing contributes to children, and especially to boys, being less aggressive and having more social skills as an adult.
Dr. Farrell also asserts that it’s challenging for many moms to “get” roughhousing and the importance of ways in which dads challenge kids limits. I know. I used to cringe at some of the competitions and “bets” my husband set up with our children. "Why do you need to do that?" I wondered. "Why does everything need to be a game?"
Dr. Farrell asserts, “A dad’s tendency to turn everything into a game is the way dad makes it palatable to challenge his children’s limits” (p. 147). In other words, it’s the way a father helps his child see he can do more than he believes. She can work harder than she imagined.
I’m not saying I didn’t challenge their limits, too. I’m just admitting my husband did it differently—and sometimes his way was better. Kids need both—mothers and fathers working together to give them what they need. Ideally this occurs with mom and dad living in the same house, but even when it doesn’t children need contact with their dads because they gain things from their father they don’t typically get from their mothers.
As Father’s Day approaches, I hope we will remember this and thank a good dad we know for his contribution to our life. You can also recognize a special dad in your life on the Good Dads web page. You can help more fathers become the good dad they want to be by contributing to the work of Good Dads. Just go to www.gooddads.com to give.
Dr. Jennifer Baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.