During this season of graduation my Facebook news feed is filled with graduation pictures of some of the children of my high school classmates. I got a fairly late start on parenthood and so it throws me off a little to see people with whom I graduated sharing pictures of their own children graduating. I’ve even seen a few pictures of grandchildren who are about the age of my youngest! It’s weird. That’s all I’m saying.
Along similar lines, or at least related to parenthood, the other day on a longer run (I’m training for my first marathon at 42! I seem to get started late on a lot of things) I was thinking about my childhood and the things I experienced that my boys will not. [Cue the drumroll for a corny dad joke] I guess you could say these thoughts were running through my head [duh dum dumm!]. These sorts of lists are fairly common as people reflect on previous generations. Often the lists are written as if to say, “These poor kids today won’t experience the really cool things I did.” Sure there are some wonderful things about the 70s and 80s that I wish my boys could know, but on my run I also thought about the things my boys get to experience that I wish I had had when I was a boy. Here are a few things that came to mind.
Commercials. The only time my boys see commercials are when we watch live sports. Otherwise, what little television they are allowed comes via Netflix or some other streaming service. Commercials are nowhere to be found, unless you consider Power Rangers episodes nothing more than 23-minute-long commercials for Power Rangers toys.
Information and Instructions. My twins played t-ball this past spring. I never considered how difficult it is to learn to hit and throw properly. I took them to a park the other day to play a baseball game. It was not fun. They are terrible! But they insisted on playing baseball NOT t-ball. Coaching the necessary skills to sons is not easy for fathers or sons. I had flashbacks to tension-filled times in another yard 35 or so years ago. Didn’t I pick this up more quickly than these three goof-offs? Maybe my dad was just a better coach. He almost certainly was! I had to contend with lots of tears and frustration. I also had to tend to my boys. When we got back home, I got out the iPad and looked up videos for how to throw a baseball. One of the twins sat with me and watched a few. I think he might have picked up more from those videos than he did from me at the park. He almost certainly did! His younger brother was not interested in throwing a baseball. He was too busy throwing Lego minifigures around the playroom, with terrible throwing form, by the way. The other twin, the one who has an almost unhealthy level of competitiveness, was still sulking about striking out at the park. But that same sulking six-year-old is beyond excited for the World Cup (I don’t know where he gets his enthusiasm for this event). The other day he just had to know how many times various countries had made the World Cup. By the sincerity and intensity in his voice one would think that this information was vital to his survival. The iPad again came to the rescue. A quick search and a link to Wikipedia later, we discovered Brazil has been to every World Cup ever held and China has only made one. We’ve also used the iPad to determine how many types of Tigers there are and find instructions for assembling Lego Hero Factory robots.
Professional Soccer. I know some form of professional soccer has been around for a good long while in the US, but in small-town Texas, soccer was something you knew about and maybe tried like you would fancy cheese—it’s OK but it’s more for Europeans and a few big-city folks. My boys have the luxury of growing up at a time when soccer is picking up steam in the US, there is a pretty successful professional league to follow, and access to the more refined European leagues has never been greater. Plus, we happen to live in a part of the country where fanaticism for the sport is highest. A couple of weeks ago we took a day trip to Portland, and to our surprise, all three boys wanted to get Portland Timbers hats as their reward for a good week at home and school. They’ve worn those hats almost every day since, much like I used to wear my Houston Oilers shirt when I was a little boy (I liked going against the flow in a predominantly Dallas Cowboys crazy part of the state).
An early Happy Fathers Day to all you fathers out there. Especially that father in small-town Texas who, despite the fact that I had to endure commercials with my Saturday morning cartoons and missed out on rooting for a soccer team together, still filled my childhood with lots of love and somehow taught me to throw and hit a baseball. Also a special greeting to the fathers and mothers (and grandparents!) from the Kilgore High School class of 1990.