About 12 years ago, our neighbor organized a kickball game on Christmas Day afternoon. Ever since, aside from the pandemic, a group of us have burned off some Christmas energy together with laughs and camaraderie.
It’s a fun tradition my sons, Beckett, 15, and Carson, 14, have enjoyed growing up with as part of Christmas Day.
By mid-day Christmas, I am ready to get out of the house and get some fresh air. Gathering with a group of friends, and strangers in some cases, to play a friendly game of kickball is a perfect outing.
To me, this game, which always ends in a tie in my head, is about community and it’s a ton of fun. I made a folder on my phone this week of pictures from all the years of kickball I could find. The game has grown from a dozen or so folks the first couple years, especially the colder days, to now more than 70. It’s to the point there are as many bystanders as there are players. It makes it special.
For my kids, I know it has created lifelong memories, which is important to me.
As a father, creating memories with my kids is one of the best things about parenting. With my boys growing up and showing signs of growing into well-rounded, somewhat independent people, my focus is on two things. First, I want to mentor them through life and hopefully they can learn from mistakes I made along the way.
Secondly, I want to provide my teens with experiences and memories. Nothing makes me happier than when Beckett comes up to me to talk about a memory or shows me something on his phone that reminds him of something we have done in the past.
As we were getting out of the truck to walk to the kickball game on Christmas, Beckett reminded me to be careful. I was puzzled until he then held up his ring finger. I remembered immediately. He was referring to the year I caught a ball and stretched my extensor tendon on my left ring finger, resulting in the tip of the finger just dangling without any control. When it didn’t heal on its own by mid-February, I eventually went to the doctor and had to get a splint. I am happy to report I got through this year’s game with no injuries.
Another recent example of something jogging a memory with Beckett was a song coming on the radio. It was 2020 when we ran into Ginuwine, an R&B singer and now disc jockey, in an airport in Atlanta. It was a bummer of a trip for us because we learned once we landed in Atlanta the NBA game we came to see on a father-son trip had been canceled due to players having Covid and the teams not being able to suit up enough men. While the trip will certainly be remembered for that disappointment, I love that he recalled meeting Ginuwine. What I remember about this is Beckett and I sitting on the floor at the crowded airport gate, and Beckett offering to give Ginuwine a hand getting up because he was clearly injured.
As he is prone to do, Beckett started asking about his injury, leading to the revelation of who he was. While I was talking to him, Beckett googled him on my phone and started playing his best-known song, Pony, quoting how many followers he had on Spotify. I’m glad he remembered this part of the trip rather than the disappointment.
For me this year’s kickball game represents the first time Carson was able to play somewhat independently. In recent years, Carson would run the bases with his mom or me kicking the ball. As we were awaiting our turn, I was encouraging Carson to kick this year. He agreed he would, but I assumed once all the attention was on him at the plate, he would change his mind. It was a great moment when all by himself he actually kicked the ball, which the pitcher rolled slow for him. The players in the field even let the pop up drop in so Carson could reach base. I was the runner this year and he was the kicker. We both ran the bases together like we had previously but this year he was kicking on his own. He kicked twice this time. He got cheered on each time.
Therefore, this year’s kickball game was not only a great opportunity to get together with friends outside on a beautiful day, but also a reminder of the kind, empathetic community we have here. I don’t take it for granted. I will never assume everyone is kind and understanding, but I take immense pride and comfort in knowing my kids are growing up in such a special place.
With New Year’s next week, I came across a funny list of New Year’s resolutions from a mom on the Raising Teens Today website worthy of sharing.
No. 1: Buy a new phone charger and hide it so my kids can’t find it.
No. 2: Donate my son’s coats to kids who will actually wear them.
No. 3: Vow to close my teen’s bedroom door instead of nagging them about the mess.
No. 4: Stop taking their “offishness” so damn personally.
No. 5: Buy a dog so someone is happy to see me when I get home.
No. 6: Buy new forks and spoons and hide them so my kids can’t steal them.
No. 7: Stop making impossible New Year’s resolutions (see No. 4)
No. 8: Stop getting so worked up about the small stuff.
No. 9: Find the humor in it all, ‘cus this won’t last forever.
No. 10: Find ways to let my kids know they’re loved every single day.
A No. 11 I will add is to laugh more in 2024 with my boys.