Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fundamentals: A Father’s Validation

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

I have officially become my parents.  I laugh at my own futile arguments against the obvious.  I don’t know when the transformation happened specifically, but it’s indisputable – fait accompli. 

I was warned that this unsettling change would happen.  Unconvinced, I fought it - passionately.  But then my own kids started navigating their world, one quite different from the one of my childhood, became instant experts (apparently) on all things life presents and emboldened to argue against the often inconvenient and mostly unsolicited advice of their gray-bearded, clueless father.

Regardless of topic – homework, extracurricular activities, Ebola, ISIS, unplugging from the electronics or the social dynamics of middle school – our discussions don’t always go so well…for anyone involved (again, similar to “debates” with my parents).  When I am challenged (or ignored completely), my temperature rises, my words become more direct and I usually blurt something completely unproductive like, “this is not a democracy.”  I doubt my kids even understand what a democracy is at this point.  But it makes me feel better, so... 

I try not to preach.  Honestly, I do.  What I have is wisdom; I don’t portend to have perfect answers for their unique situations.  I recognize that my antiquated childhood experiences and Gen-X worldview don’t always produce sound advice today.  Of course how could I forget my limitations when two pint-sized critics and their whopping two decades of combined earthly experience are constantly questioning my theories?  But here’s an odd twist.  I’d be willing to bet a six-pack of fine Maryland craft beer (high stakes for me) that if you wrapped either of my kids in Wonder Woman’s truth lasso, they’d begrudgingly spill this fact: dad is usually right.

Why am I usually on-point?  Is it because I’m some oracle of life experiences or all-seeing eye affixed atop the parental mountaintop?  Hardly.  I’m usually right, and my parents were usually right (ouch that hurt), and their parents were usually right for a very simple reason.  And the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind; for those seeking less abstract, anti-Dylan proof, grab a chair in the sports world’s classroom.

I’m betting even the most casual sports fans noticed that the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals made improbable runs to the World Series and that (this is really going to hurt) the left-for-dead Dallas Cowboys, their leaky defense, embattled quarterback and kooky owner are firmly in the playoff conversation.  How did they all do it?  The Giants rode the golden left arm of pitching ace Madison Bumgarner and the Royals leaned on a nasty bullpen full of guys throwing 100 MPH and capable of making a baseball move like a wiffle ball.  And the Cowboys?  The Cowboys, behind a young, talented offensive line and RB DeMarco Murray, are running the football like it’s 1975. 

Pitching and running the ball: as much as sports have changed, these fundamental tenets of success in baseball and football, respectively, have not.  The same applies to the fundamentals of parenting and life.  The basics are timeless: that’s why my parents were almost always right and that’s why I’m usually right.  I am a father, validated by sports.   

What are those enduring, trans-generational lessons, the pitching and running game of parenthood?  Well, here are a few.  Work hard.  Be reliable and trustworthy.  Respect authority but don’t be afraid to question it.  Care – about yourself and others.  Brush your teeth.  Bring a positive, can-do attitude to every situation and challenge.  Understand that a broken heart is often an unfortunate part of ultimately finding lasting love.  Live below your means.  Candy is not a food group (except on Halloween night).  Chores and adversity build character.  Video games are fine – in moderation.  Learn when to speak your mind and when to bite your tongue.  And yes, you have to eat your vegetables. 

Oh, and just in case your kids point out your failure to always live by your own guidelines, I’ll offer one last salvo my father used on me…and one I’m now using on my kids: do as I say, not as I do (or did).  It’s the parental escape clause.

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