My dad knew how to baseball.
In the fifth grade, we joined a pick-up game with some neighborhood kids. I was on base (not sure how) when one of them asked if my dad was any good. He was my dad, so I assumed he wasn’t. The old man must have heard me saying so because he blasted the next pitch out of the park.
Granted, he was a grown man playing against kids. Still, I remember watching the ball zoom over my head and feeling ridiculously proud. I’d never seen a ball fly so far, and I was related to the guy who hit it. Wide-eyed and impressed, that was me.
I’m betting many fathers enjoy being sports heroes to their kids. I never had much of a chance when it came to these things. (Although I later channeled my minuscule sportsballs into an interest in judo and karate that has left my kids wide-eyed more than once – but that’s a different post.)
So what do you do when you can’t hit that homer, dunk a basketball, or throw the long bomb? You need to find another path to parental heroism.
A professor friend of mine succeeds here by knowing history. Seriously, he and his teenage son travel the country playing historyball. They talk snarky to tour guides and share a solid nerd-bond. It’s an awesome, if at times unsightly, phenomenon to watch.
My attempts at heroism come by playing with the only ball I’m particularly skilled at – goofball.
Take this summer as an example.
One of my daughters volunteers as a teacher’s aide in a pre-k program. This July, she overheard a little dude bragging to the guys at his table. So she bent down, feigned a snotty tone, and said “well, my dad’s a superhero.”
That night, she let me in on the story. The cool thing was she knew exactly what I would do. We jumped in the car and drove to Party City. An hour later, we had a super hero costume in hand.
In the morning, my daughter greeted her students alongside her superhero father. We freaked the little fellas out – in a good way. Each one received super deputy sun glasses from Doctor Blue himself.
That’s my daughter holding the glasses on the left below.
There is no reason a dad couldn’t be good at sportsball and goofball. But I’m not here to worry about those guys. I’m focused on dadswithoutballs who are doing their best in a hostile nation.
Here is my advice, be a super-charged historian if that works for you. Find whatever clicks between you and your child, and take it as far as they want to go. For me, it’s all about the goofball. Sure, I’m embarrassing at times. But, during moments like this one, I get to look in my daughter’s eyes and know she’s cool having a goofy dad rather than a sporty one.
Note: faces are blurred to protect my super deputies’ identities.