Adventures Of Fatherhood – March 31, 2017

Adventures Of Fatherhood – March 31, 2017
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I’m pulling for the University of South Carolina in this weekend’s NCAA Final Four.

While I love the underdog story, I’m also quite fond of their coach, Frank Martin. He’s a humble, candid type who speaks from the heart. He never expected to be where he will be this weekend and when giving the opportunity he’s blunt when asked about a variety of topics. During a recent media event, for example, Martin was asked about today’s youth and apparently the question struck a nerve.

“You know what makes me sick to my stomach? When I hear grown people say that kids have changed. Kids haven’t changed. Kids don’t know anything about anything. We’ve changed as adults. We demand less of kids. We expect less of kids. We make their lives easier instead of preparing them for what life is truly about. We’re the ones that have changed,” Martin said.

This is something I think about a lot in this parenting journey, particularly on the sidelines of my sons’ youth games and practices as well as during his karate training sessions. It’s really on my mind throughout daily life events. I try desperately to be what I believe is an “old school parent,” rather than this new micro managing type of parent who seems to be prevalent today. I am objective enough to know there are times when I fail miserably at this and do dote too much on my children. Pam is better at not overdoing things for our kids than I am. I blame time and impatience but I should know better by now.

I like to think we are raising our kids with high expectations. If Beckett brings home a B on a test, as he did recently, we don’t congratulate him. We don’t punish him either, but it’s clear we are unimpressed and we don’t suppress disappointment, particularly if it’s obvious his best effort was not given.

That was the case this past week when he brought home a math test with two questions left unanswered. It was clear he was rushing and didn’t even check over his work to ensure he had answered all the questions. He missed four questions on the test and only one was legitimate.

That’s unacceptable. When we asked why he was rushing so much and showed him how it hurt his score, he said it was because he didn’t want to miss recess. When I asked him if he would rather get a B on a report card or test (he was quick to correct me it was a B+ actually) than miss any part of recess, he said yes. The iPad mysteriously disappeared after that answer.

Part of me — the “old school” type — wanted to just let it be and say at some point he has to be accountable for his own decisions, while the other part (the one that won out) demanded he understand that type of attitude will not be tolerated in our house and that there will be consequences if it happens again. “Kids don’t know anything about anything,” I reminded myself while realizing there was some micro-managing going on here.

On the sports front, during one of Beckett’s soccer games last weekend, there was a father providing a ridiculous running commentary in a loud fashion throughout the game. The game happened to be lopsided in favor of Beckett’s U-9 team, but that didn’t really have anything to do with it.

This father commented on every single play in a boisterous fashion. More often than not, it was negative toward the opposing team rather than positive toward his son’s squad. Even when he was being positive, it was at the expense of our players.

At one point, when Beckett and a smaller boy both went for the ball, the small kid fell to the ground after getting bumped by my son. It was not overly rough but the size difference made it appear so if you didn’t understand the game. The ref called the foul and awarded possession to the other team. It was the right call but it was obviously not a malicious play.

The parent yelled out onto the field how someone was going to get hurt, instructing the ref to get control of the game and remind our team this is not football. When he wouldn’t stop, I regrettably yelled out, “just let them play the game,” to the other parent, before recalling Martin’s quote that I read that morning in the paper. I realized how true his words were.

Why do parents always feel this need to protect their kids from anything unfortunate? Instead of pointing blame for a simple part of the game so all could hear, perhaps the father could have later reminded his son later to brace for contact and stay on his feet. I have done that with Beckett on several occasions, reminding him he needs to play with his head up and be tough. Learn from what happens and do better the next time. That’s how you get better in sports and life.

Martin words still ring in my head, “We expect less of kids. We make their lives easier instead of preparing them for what life is truly about.”

If I have learned anything on this parenting adventure, it’s that there’s an ocean of gray when it comes to dealing with daily ups and downs. Navigating these uncertain times comes with its challenges, but I’m going to work hard to remember the coach’s wise words when individual situations arise. Maybe you will take something from his statement as well.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.