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Dad up! I once thought it took grit to man up. 

 

 
 

loser ribbonYou wake up at 7:30am. Your head is pounding. It’s not from the Halloween celebrating the night before, it’s pounding with some screechy Ariana Grande song that hasn’t left your head since your daughter’s carpool days ago. Now it’s Saturday. “Dadurday”. In just three hours you will coach your son’s soccer team to their eighth straight loss, capping a winless season where they were outscored 49 to 1. At least your nine weeks of hell as a volunteer coach will be over.

In bed you hear the pumped-up volume of the TV from the living room. You discover your 7 year-old watching Hocus Pocus. It’s 7:30am and it looks like he’s been binging on his Halloween loot since 6:00am. Wrappers are everywhere.  It seems that threat that they should donate half of their candy sure backfired. Perfect.  His sugar-high will crash hard right before the start of the longest game of the year. You were hoping, as you did every week, they might taste the sweet delight of victory. Now they will surely only savor dirt, salty tears, and a large serving of whoop-ass handed to them by other 7-year-olds.

Your first priority is making coffee. Looking out the window you see those familiar dark clouds that have loomed over the past five muddy weeks. You’re angry your wife convinced you to coach and every Saturday she’s not there to help with the mad scramble to find cleats, shin-guards, or your positive attitude. However, since she goes to her “boot-camp” on Saturday, you have to support anything that will make a busy working mom look and feel good. Sacrifices, it’s what dads make. If you survive the next wet, cold six hours of all three of your children’s games, you might get a twenty minute nap while watching college football on TV.

You somehow manage to get everyone in their gear and out the door by 8:30am. As you start to drive away, your wife is arriving home. She is smiling and waving and pumped from her boot camp. Yay. You should be happy that one of you feels good.  Instead you drive off before the baby of the family, but your soccer warrior today, starts crying for Momma.

Just one win. That would make it all worth it somehow.soccerrain

You get there on time and none of your six misfits of mud are there. Maybe they gave up before the last week. Heck, it seemed like they gave up from the very first practice. Yet each week you’d see glimpses of determination and skills you tried to incorporate. Every time you were sure they cared more about the dirt mound they sculpted than the game, they knew exactly how many points they were down (usually 8. I don’t know. I stopped counting).

They slowly all arrive. All of them look hung over from Halloween excess. Like every week, you greet them with a high-five and positive energy. The league scheduled a longer game for the last week so the kids could “put it all together.” Right, all of the many facets of soccer they’ve mastered by now. You decide to warm-up practicing shooting. They haven’t scored one goal since the first game when a fluke shot rolled in from mid-field. That is, unless you count all of the scores accidentally made on their own goal. Screw passing and fundamentals! Today they’re going to feel the joy of scoring, which will bring the elusive “W”.

As is usual, none of the kids listen nor do the drill. You hate to yell in front of their parents and your whistle wields no power. Balls are flying everywhere but the goal. Their only interest is in inventing their own drills which you encouraged back in week three. By the time you hear all their intricate drills which involve stacking cones and very little about soccer, it is already time to play the game. Oh, well. Let’s do this!

The other team looks small and beatable. You almost feel sorry for the wrath of scoring your team is about to unleash on them. And two minutes in, you’re down 3 to zip. As has been the case every week, if the other team has one kid with skill, they win. This team has two. Just like in professional sports, two superstars are unstoppable. Your team has two kids who are good at taunting the other team and, well, that’s about it.

It is quickly 8 to 0 early. With kids losing their will on and off the field and still 45 minutes left, you fight the urge to give up or to trip the opposing kid on his way to another goal. The other team’s coach, a high school girl, tries to help you by limiting her two scorers’ time on the field. She tells them to pass rather than score. One of your team’s dads can take no more and scolds their star for celebrating after he scores.

You can sense the other team, either out of generosity or out of boredom, is going to allow some mercy goals. You try everything, so do your players, but that damn ball just won’t go in. Your own son claims he’s injured and pouts on the sidelines. Finally after an hour, someone calls the game. Time of death is 10:31am.

For treats, some nice parent brought donuts. Your players are thrilled and your own son makes a miraculous recovery. They eat their donut while you try to give a post-season pep talk. You tell them how proud you are of them at how much they improved and fought all year. Who knows if they hear you? One of the parents tells them to give a cheer for the coach, “Hip hip…” (silence).  Not one “thank you” from the kids. You’re not sure if the parents appreciate you volunteering instead of them, or if they blame you for sucking. You clean up the trash they leave and turn in your equipment avoiding the other coaches who are going off to their pizza parties.

It’s over.  You wish there was a happy ending or a moral or even one friggin’ goal at the end of this long tale, but there isn’t. You tried everything over the weeks. You brought in older boys to run drills, solicited parents’ help, listened to other coaches’ unsolicited advice, bribed kids with treats, one parent even offered money for a goal. Most of all, you tried to make it fun and not show that it rarely was.

In the end, the league bullied you into coaching to avoid having your son sit on the couch watching TV every Saturday.  Who knows if it was worth it? You know you’ll never do it again. But you said that last time you volunteered to coach too.  At least no one got hurt. Not physically.

Who’s up for basketball?!

We got a good smiling pic. Perhaps that's all that matters.

We got a good smiling pic. Perhaps that’s all that matters.

Download the PDF file .

Thenkidshappened.com. Thanks Kym Campbell for illustrating these findings.

boxtrollsIf you think The Boxtrolls is scary, try taking ten 7-year-olds to see it. Yikes! But since I have to celebrate my kid’s birthday, it beat the horrifying alternative of hosting ten sugar-frenzied 7-year-olds in my home.

The Boxtrolls is a great movie. If you haven’t seen it, you should go before reading further. Once you have then – Spoiler Alert: The film industry is back to its old tricks; turning on us dads (continue reading…)

coachhug willferrell

While searching for coaching tips to help my hopeless, winless band of 6-year-old dirt-diggers, I discovered this must-read gem for all parents. I was frustrated and desperate thinking that my kids needed more motivation and guidance from me. This article made me see that’s not want they want, nor what they need.

http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/more-family-fun/201202/what-makes-nightmare-sports-parent

I’ll give you the significant highlights in a bit, but read the whole post. That is, it after you relate to my typical Saturday dad dismay.

After a predictably miserable debut as coach of my youngest son’s team in the morning, I rushed to see my 8-year-old’s match followed by my daughter’s after that. Aye yai yai, soccer Saturdays are taxing on a parent of three. I thought I could relax and just take in the game as a proud dad and let some other poor schmuck do the coaching. There is no relaxing on Saturday. As I watched my boy nervously dance around the field, unsure of how to engage, my parental insecurities were starting to burn inside.

My wife said casually, “I remember playing soccer. And hating it.” As she said that, all my early memories of the agony came back too. For soccer and baseball and basketball, I did the same thing that I see my son and daughter do; I’d run around trying to look as if I was playing, but just hoping to avoid all ball contact until the good kids could win the game for us.

Those thoughts quickly went to the dark side where sideline parents discover madness. I’ve failed as a father. If they don’t want to get the ball today, then they’ll not want to go after anything in life. They are going to grow up to be heroin addicts unless I do something about it today after he finishes his orange slices. Actually, maybe before he gets to enjoy any undeserved friggin orange slices!

I pursued him after the game anxious to positively discuss his play if I could hold back my visible disappointment. He could see it in my eyes and clung to Mom. I got in some encouraging notes while fighting to get between him and Mommy.

For the next few weeks I tried to make all of my kids more aggressive at wanting the ball. I emailed the coach and stood behind him yelling, I mean, cheering. Did I become that Dad?

gettheball!

I’ve seen some improvements. My son even scored a goal. But I wasn’t seeing soccer scholarships to Yale at this point.

I was going to write a post about my nightmares as a Micros coach, when I found the enlightening aforementioned post by Steve Henson of Yahoo Sports.  The opening line grabbed me :

Hundreds of college athletes were asked to think back: “What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?”

Their overwhelming response: “The ride home from games with my parents.”

He goes on to explain that the same college athletes’ best memories were from grandparents or the parents who simply said they loved to watch them play.

I just read this yesterday and I wish I had read it before I ever attended a game. My wife and I have differed on this issue for years. She wanted me to stand down and let the coach do all the coaching so I don’t confuse the child. I said that, having been a coach, I always wanted the parents to help me out and instruct their kid. But I forgot to consider what the kid wants. Besides post-game snacks.

This article brings to light the philosophies of longtime coaches Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller of Proactive Coaching LLC. They instruct,

“Everything we teach came from me asking players questions,” Brown says. “When you have a trusting relationship with kids, you get honest answers… Athletics is one of the best ways for young people to take risks and deal with failure because the consequences aren’t fatal, they aren’t permanent. We’re talking about a game. So they usually don’t want or need a parent to rescue them when something goes wrong. Once you as a parent are assured the team is a safe environment, release your child to the coach and to the game. That way all successes are theirs, all failures are theirs.”

Makes perfect sense. It’s just a game. Furthermore, the soccer stars from my little league teams are no more successful today than the kid that picked his nose all game. It’s just hopefully some fun and a way to get them off the couch. Relax, Dad.

Now, will I be able to practice what I have been coached? We shall see tomorrow. I will certainly keep you posted. Now, go get your juice box!

broken bart

Summer, you kicked my ass again. I thought this was going to be the year I finally beat my great nemesis. But after one broken arm, one murdered cat, excessive amounts of screen-time, and a blog untouched in six weeks, I accept defeat.  And, while some of you are flaunting back to school pics, I’ve still got weeks to go!

For a father blogger who is home days, summer break is my monster in the closet. I know it’s there. I know it will get me. But I inevitably pull the covers over my head and hope I survive to see tomorrow.

This year was going to be different. Or so I thought. (continue reading…)

I hope you appreciate, like “Voldemort”, I did not mention the title of the Disney song that must not be named. Please let us agree to never utter that three word phrase within an ear shot of any dad. Good.

Today I am super stoked The Lego Movie comes out on DVD. Maybe this time I’ll actually get to see it.

Yes, The Lego Movie is a bone of contention in my family.  I chose to watch football when my wife took the kids to Frozen. I didn’t mind skipping that one. But The Lego Movie was going to be Dad’s. I couldn’t wait. (continue reading…)

grinchIt came without sports. It came without a “hall pass”. I spent Dad’s Day with my family and I still had a blast.

Since I’ve been so vehemently opinionated about how I wanted to be celebrated, I must tell you how it went down after all. Let’s just say, like fatherhood, it may not have been what I expected. It may not have been the perfect ride I dreamed up. But if you try sometimes, you just might find…you get what you need.

Am I still talking about Father’s Day? I got distracted by the radio. Right, well you might remember from such posts as last week’s Daddy Dilemma: Ditch the fam on Father’s Day?, that I wanted to use my earned “hall pass” and watch the all-you-can-eat buffet of sports the dad gods granted us this rare Father’s Day. Well the gods giveth and they taketh away. Through an unexplained act of fate, nature, karma, or something, weather knocked out my satellite broadcast.  I tasted only a morsel of sports before the weather reduced my holiday to just an average Sunday with amped-up kids and not much to do.

After we opened school-made gifts and brunched, my wife offered to take kids away to movie. But I chose to spend the afternoon with the reasons I’ve been included in this holiday. While waiting for weather to give us a chance to play sports, I showed them my favorite flick as a lad: Rocky IV. Reliving it with them was a blast as they cheered for bloody vengeance from Rocky’s stereotypical foe.  After that we put on some Otis Redding and grooved around the kitchen playing board games and barbecuing hotdogs for dinner. (Wife and daughter did the traditional dad barbecuing while I drank white wine like a traditional Kathie Lee Gifford.)

It was perfect.

If you’re wondering about the gifts from my other post last week, Scarymommy.com/fathers-day-gifts-dad-doesnt-want, I can tell you we did end up brunching at a restaurant but not an over-priced one. We got stink-eye from the older couple on the table behind us as our children fought, misplaced their inside voices, played video games on our phones, and then were rewarded with ice cream so I could finish my Bloody Mary. I didn’t get the nap nor the peace and quiet but I also didn’t get a card that sings or farts. I’ll take it.

I did get a funny T-shirt that I’ll never wear. But I don’t mind because they had it made for me. It has the title I eternally and annually seek.

best dad T Now I’ve got 364 days to earn it again next year.

#2 dadIt’s two days till Father’s Day and I feel like Rocky in most of the Rocky films. I’ve lost my title. My dad mojo took a dive and there’s no 80’s montage to pick me up. It hurts. I have to look back, way back, to when I wanted it. When I had the eye of the tiger. Now…let’s get it back. (cue music)

christie

No, Governor Chris Christie nabbing Father of the Year is not the title I lost. When Bill Clinton was awarded the trophy last year with his adult daughter, I suspected it was a sham. And now that the Tony Soprano look-alike governor of the mafia capitol of the world has won, I’m positive that title can be bought with a severed horse head.

However, there was a time I believed my “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee mugs, buttons and cards. Of course I didn’t really believe it. But those first few years of fatherhood, I felt inside that I may just be the greatest.  And maybe my family believed it too.

Those days when I was stay-at home Dad with my toddler daughter were both trying and terrific. I had to wing fatherhood and learn on the fly. In my glory days I would take her to the park full of rambunctous kids and their old chatting nannies. I was the hero dad who played with all of them. They shrieked with joy as I chased them up the slide pretending to be the monster. They cheered when I freed their ball from the tall tree. I was dad to all and the greatest one around.

Sigh. Now I’d much rather sit on the park bench with my smart phone and hope some other young dad will be the lava monster. As all three kids get older I hope they need less from me. I wonder when I last saw that glimmer of pride in their eye like when we all believed I was Dad #1.

I can sit here and think about how the good ol’ days have passed. Or I can get off my ass and get my World’s Greatest Dad title back!

By get off my ass, I mean sit on my ass and write a meaningful list. I’ve got two days before the main event. Here is a list of why I deserve or don’t deserve the title of World’s Greatest Dad. All of these parenting shortcomings could be argued as either a knock against a dad or as approval for his title.

  1. I complain about them publicly. knock against -I kind of have this anti-children parenting blog.  True, most of my posts are cynical and I’m constantly bitching to the entire world about my “little terrors”. Or approval for – My honesty makes other parents feel better about their own imperfect parenting and they see they could be much worse at it.
  2. I let Mom take over any chance I get. knock- Just like with cleaning the toilet, I exaggerate my incompetence at parenting until my wife takes over. approval- I will always sacrifice my free time to give her a break. Especially if there’s a chance for her to do something fun.
  3. I scream at my kids often. knock- Seriously, it can be as terrifying as spanking to them and the people around me. approval- It’s not spanking and there have been numerous times if I hadn’t screamed alarmingly they would have run in front of a moving car.
  4. I avoid all volunteering. knock- Schools and extra-curricular groups need help but I will make-up excuses, hide and hope they don’t find me. approval- They always find me. Then cornered, I reluctantly sign-up. It always turns out to be the most rewarding experience of my week.
  5. I say “no” to kids way more than “sure”. knock- We all know I’m winning this one, but it still hurts when you have to be the bad guy and your child tells you, repeatedly, how “mean” you are. approval- obviously if they got their way, they’d be eating candy in front of the TV 24/7 while sticking foreign objects into electrical sockets.
  6. I don’t help them with homework. knock- I’ve never had the patience for teaching. I admire those who do. And with my 6th grader I have no friggin memory of how to do any of her lessons. approval- By me not helping, they learn how to do it themselves. Amen.
  7. I lose my temper. knock- I always wanted to be the sweet, calm dad that never loses his cool so my kids would do the same. approval- Impossible. Everybody loses their temper. It’s important they see the 95% of the time I don’t, but also that nobody’s perfect. And show them you can lose it without doing anything stupid.
  8. Often I long to fly the coop. knock- Sure, my kids can drive me absolutely batty and I frequently have the thought of running away to a care-free, kid-free dream life far away from anyone who will need something from Dad. approval- I don’t. I stay. Through poop and tears, yelling and never-ending worry, I try to be the best father a kid deserves. I make plenty of mistakes but I never want to give the job up. I try to remember to show them love. I’m there for them everyday. Isn’t that really the job description?

Yes, I believe that is what it takes. Therefore, I do win. Cheers to me and all the dads who doubt themselves daily but trudge on. I deserve my children’s respect and whatever gifts and proud titles they are forced to bestow upon me but once a year. I am the Greatest.

Rocky

ditch kid

Oowee! Three days till Father’s Day and I’m more excited than a kid before Christmas sneaking off to devour all the chocolate in his advent calendar. (Every year he promises us he won’t do that. Then he does.)  Anyway, this year is uniquely special for Father’s Day and I want your opinion if I should exploit it.

If you’ve read my campaign in the menu above, you know I have a beef with Father’s Day. The short history is President Dick Nixon designated the third Thursday in June to be our day. The only problem is that there is little choice of sports at that time of year.  Either Nixon was oblivious or wanted to force dads to share family time without our favorite distraction. Either way, I think he’s a crook.

Well this year the Father’s Day gods have granted us a unique calendar event. This year June 1st landed on a Sunday meaning we get Father’s Day on the earliest possible -June 15th. That translates into giving us a pivotal game five of the NBA Finals. But, wait, there’s more. If you haven’t noticed all the unrecognizable flags waving, as it happens only every four years, the Soccer World Cup started this week.

From golf to Lebron to soccer, now dads of all ages and ethnicities have to deal with the dilemma: Is Father’s Day for fathers or families? If it’s truly for us, then most dads will choose to watch the “all you can eat” buffet of men chasing balls. (Wait, that doesn’t sound right.) Heck, even if you’re a dad who could care less about sports, then maybe you want a day to yourself to play with your toys in the garage. (That doesn’t sound right either.)  I mean to say, is this day for us to do what we want? Or is this day about letting our children and wives shower us with adoration? Depending on the age of your children, that may last thirty seconds tops.

I wonder if Mother’s Day coincided with The Oscars’ Red Carpet Special, Real Housewives finale and a royal wedding, would Mom be asking for a “hall pass”.

Personally, my dilemma became serious when I saw that my favorite baseball team was coming to town for a Father’s Day afternoon game. The first thousand dads in the door get a special grill gift. I love my children and I love going to baseball games, but these two loves do not get along.  Perhaps in ten years we can all watch a game together but, for now, there’s not enough sugar in the stadium to get my kids to last through four hours of baseball.

drop-baby

To makes things more complicated, my childhood friend invited me to go to a beer festival the Saturday before Dad’s Day. This is my friend who’s married with no kids. He is constantly testing our thirty year bond by inviting me to events like this and guys weekends away which seem easy to the jerk with no kids.

My selfish inner-child shined bright as stadium lights when I imagined a family-free weekend full of sports and beer. But it’s Father’s Day. That inner-child often has to listen to the outer-father.

What should I do? What would you do? My poll question is there to the right. It’s anonymous. Who with and how should we celebrate our day?

In the end, I can’t find another dad willing to ask for the hall pass and join me at the game. And my wife wanted to meet a visiting old friend for lunch on Saturday while I take the kids somewhere that is not a beer festival. Don’t cry for me, Argentina. I intend to revel in my day still. I will watch as much sports on my phone while I see how good my kids are at making Bloody Marys. How about you?

Six days before Father’s Day and I just found out about the “conference” the White House hosted today for working dads. *

obama guinness

I’ll check my mailbox again but I don’t think I got the invite. Darn, I love talking about kids. Especially with other adults far away from kids. All cynicism aside, I’m glad that our leaders are on this trending topic. I was going to make a joke about the many issues they really should be discussing, but that’s too debatable. Let’s stick to the topic where no opinions differ: how we raise our children. And our leaders are on it.

From USA today -“The White House, which is preparing a summit on working families later this month, sponsors an event Monday devoted to working fathers. Business leaders, administration officials, and other working fathers will ‘explore the breadth of roles dads play today at home’ and ‘the new challenges dads experience balancing career and family,’ says a White House announcement.”

Funny that the men conferring on this issue are all dads too busy to spend ample time at home. I’m glad they are taking into consideration the change in gender balance at home and in work place. I just wish I could go to the after-party.

My wife, along with other working moms, have already begun strategizing in this way. Inspired by Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg’s Bestseller about balancing work and home, my wife has begun hosting a “Lean-In Circle”. I’m not sure what they do, but it involves wine, chatting with other working moms, and me watching the kids while they lean somewhere out of the house on a Friday night. Well played, ladies.

Does anyone want to start a Lean In/working dad conference with me? Please.

*(editor’s note: This is yesterday’s important news. I’ll try to be more current but at this news network sometimes Dad is following around the youngest child with a vomit bucket all night while Mom changes sheets repeatedly. Then Dad stays home the following day with kid and vomit bucket and blogs about it. I think it was the lemon aoli he admits he ate by the spoonful. Like Father, like son. He vomits, I blog. We’re both regurgitating for all the world to see. If you want more up to speed news, I suggest Comedy Central. I’m counting the days to Father’s Day! Let’s hope kids get healthy so we can keep talking about Dads all week.)