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Take Me Out Of the Ballgame, Dad!

© 2000, by Lisa M. Roberts

Use to be that "Take me out to the ballgame!" meant peanuts, crackerjacks and a chance to yell like a maniac in a cheering crowd. As a parent of a child in Little League, it now means keeping track of a twice-weekly laundered uniform (including the elusive cap and cup!) and orchestrating too-frequent lessons in winning/losing gracefully. As an EP, it also means relief from long hours in the home office as you cheer with the other parents from the sidelines...or coach with the other Dads in the dugout.

But regardless of what "Take me out to the ballgame" means to me, I am certain it means something quite different, and much more, to my 10-year old son William and fortysomething husband, Ron. Ron has been coaching William's team since T-ball; at the end of this season, they are both about ready for the "Majors." Interestingly enough, over the years I've noticed that to them, the flip side of the phrase -- "Take me out OF the ballgame" -- is an almost welcome refrain from its sing-song cousin. The thought of getting "out of" instead of "out to" is used as a valve -- to let off steam that comes with the pressure of being part of a team, part of the competition, part of the male culture...part of something much bigger clearly than the game at hand.
Where is all this pressure coming from, I have often wondered. Sitting on the sidelines, it becomes clear enough, as the parallels to the business and work worlds can be striking. While watching the game I'll hear phrases like "Hold it together!" when the team in the field is falling apart from a series of careless errors, and "Way to stay alive!" when a batter hits a foul ball and there's 2 strikes already. It's not hard to make the parallel that "staying alive" and "holding it together" are what it takes to make it in the world at large. Nor is it hard to imagine that the elation of catching a high fly ball or stealing home when least expected will serve a child well as s/he grows into adulthood, reaching for a professional goal or taking a huge entrepreneurial risk.
As if an echo to his cyclical wishes for a career change, sometimes I'll hear my husband say, "That's it. I'm going to quit coaching. I have no time for this." And occasionally I'll hear my son say, "I HATE baseball. I don't EVER want to play again!" But year after year, season after season, they're still at it. They don't quit -- even when there's a clear opening to do so. I wonder whether to them it would be like quitting being a father, or being a son -- or for my husband, quitting the work world altogether. Instead the two embrace the beginning of each season with renewed gusto and determination, and end each season with a sense of victory -- no matter what the team's Wins or Losses are. Yes, there's something bigger going on here, something I can't quite grasp in my sideline role. But it's something about commitment and follow-through, responsibility and reaching for one's goals. And I am very grateful for It, for whatever It is, because It brings to the entire family an aura of fun, excitement and a strengthening of our collective spirit.
This Father's Day is the last game of the season, perhaps the last game of "Triple A" for both of them. But regardless of what next year brings -- whether they both go "out to" or "out of" The League -- there is one thing my husband and son can count on. They'll stick together, one way or another. For the bond they have formed playing game after game after game (instead of eating peanuts and crackerjacks!) is far-reaching -- it's generational, beyond a lifetime. And something neither one will ever really want to get "out of," after all.

What was the greatest gift your father gave you? Share the heartfelt lessons he taught you, and thank him today! Email us!

Lisa Roberts is the mother of four, owner of The Entrepreneurial Parent, LLC and the author of How to Raise A Family & A Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide to Home Business (Bookhaven Press, 1997). Copies of her book are available for purchase at EP and through Amazon.

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