Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dad of the Year

Here is my submission to be considered for a Dad of the Year award:

Following on our successful outing to the batting cage a week previous, I decided to redeem a coupon to let Scotty hit some more balls. We were in the area for a picnic with visiting cousins and family members on R's side, so it seemed like no big stretch to head down the street to hit a few.

Being a Saturday afternoon, the place was much busier than it had been during our previous weekend visit. Instead of having our choice of cages (we used #7 the first time), we had to wait for a slow-pitch slot to open up. We got #3, as a threesome of college-age kids took a break at the picnic table behind the cage.

I sent Scott into the cage and told him to stand on the white line that marks the batter's box. He bats lefty, although he is right-handed, so from the door on the rear left side of the cage he had to cross over the strike zone to reach his starting point. I put the token in the machine and closed the gate.

At that moment, the guy running the place asked me how old Scott was. I turned my head to reply and then I heard one of the kids at the picnic table say, "I think he needs to move." I turned my head back to see Scott perched perilously close to the strike zone, his heels just touching the white edge of the batter's box.

Then he got hit in the thigh with a ball.

It's hard to say whether I deserve the Dad of the Year award for sending my 5-year-old son into a batting cage or for the way I handled things after he got hit by a pitch. He turned to look at me with a pained look that promised tears. However, he also stepped fully into the strike zone, his back towards the launcher. I had to point to the door and shout for him to move, to run, RIGHT NOW.

As everyone else stopped to watch, I held Scott on my lap on the bench of the picnic table while he cried, eventually accusing me of sending him into the fastball cage (#3 is slowpitch, but it is right next to fastball cage #4). The guy at the counter was nice enough to give us a new token, so I asked Scott if he wanted to go back in. "Not into #3!" he said.

The guys hitting balls in #7 were nice enough to let us use the cage to hit our balls. To his credit, Scott got back in there and took 40 pitches. It seems like the earlier incident rattled him a bit, but he eventually started connecting with the ball again.

I felt like one of those crazy sports dads who browbeats their kids into a sport to live out their own childhood dreams. I'm sure that's what I looked like. The thing is, I don't really even care about baseball. I swear. Just give me that award already.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stampede 2012

Another year, another Kid's Day at the Calgary Stampede. Our experience in the centennial year was considerably hotter than the rain-soaked 99th edition. We managed to get to all the big hits in the morning (Grandstands, Illusionists, Aggie Tent, Superdogs, Trampoline Wall), so we spent most of the afternoon climbing around on tanks and helicopters by the Saddledome. Then our kids went home with L&J for the rest of the evening while R and I saw 54-40 and The Tragically Hip at an outdoor concert held at Fort Calgary. It was the fulfilment of a lifelong wish to finally see The Hip live. They were fantastic. We took advantage of the kid-free opportunity to head back to the grounds to snack on fresh-cut fries and watch the fireworks show. It made us feel like teenagers again. Happy 100th Anniversary, Stampede!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Tennis & Batting Emotional Cycle

Scott has a love-hate relationship with sports. Fortunately, the love mostly outweighs the hate.

Inspired by a recent post by the Walker Family, I took the kids out to the Batting Cage near Shouldice Park in the community of Montgomery. I ride past this place nearly every day on my bike, but I can't remember ever actually using it. I do remember going to a batting cage near Provo with some friends while I was in University. That event is memorable mainly because my buddy accidentally hit the fence on the side of the cage while swinging the bat and it bounced back and hit him in the side of the head and nearly knocked him out. Fortunately, no such incident took place on this visit, and Scott was well-protected by his bike helmet.

My only instructions before he began: "Scott, the machine is going to keep shooting balls out until it gets to 20, and it is not going to stop and wait for you if you walk away or get frustrated. So stay on that white line until it's done and keep swinging."

Scott is quite good at hitting the pitches I throw at him, but it took a few minutes for him to get used to the heavier bat, the longer pitch distance, and the fact that the ball comes out of a machine. At first I worried that he would be disappointed because he hardly connected with any of the first round of 20. However, he quickly made his own adjustments to his grip, stance and timing to connect with a few by the end of the second round of 20. I couldn't help myself but give in to his begging for another round, which is where he had some real success. I think he would have been happy to stay there all night, but it's actually a pretty expensive activity if you forget your coupon book at home. Instead, he watched in awe while some college-age guys hit ball in the fast-pitch lanes.

This kid's focus is pretty amazing. Give him any kind of game and he will stick at it until you run out of time or money. His appetite for this sort of thing never seems to be satisfied. I wish I had some video footage from our recent tennis expoits. He and his cousin hit a tennis ball around with racketball rackets at the recent Fathers & Sons campout and he came home wanting nothing more than to play tennis again. We bought some wooden paddles at the dollar store and rallied a bit in the field by our house. Another day we took the paddles to the tennis courts down the street. Then we graduated to real tennis rackets borrowed from the community center. In each session there was a distinct pattern:

Frustration: Scott is frustrated that he can't hit the ball as well as he wants to. He mostly blames me for hitting it too high or too low or too fast or too slow. Rather than argue with him, I try to say very little -- complimenting him on good hits.

Meltdown: Mounting Frustration overflows into a emotional outburst, where Scott turns and marches away a few steps with tears in his eyes. I say nothing and wait a few moments for him to start coming back before I hit the next ball to him.

Breakthrough Lecture: Scott hits the ball back while working through tears to explain how my inadequate gameplay has frustrated him. After a few moments I realize that we are having our first good rally. I interrupt Scott's lecture to compliment him on the good rally. He laughs triumphantly and plays surprisingly well afterwards.

Rinse & Repeat: There are certain emotional highs and lows in the course of play, but the general trend is upwards. At one point in our tennis game, rather than hit a nice easy lob to him, I hit it a bit lower and harder and immediately began to apologize for the bad shot. He cranked it right back at me with his trademark two-handed lefty forehand and said, "Why did did you say sorry? That was a good shot."

I think he's pretty decent at these sports, especially for his age. But I really marvel at the combination of extreme emotions and absolute perserverance. He gets so frustrated, but he can't bring himself to give up either.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Happy Canada Day Birthday

There are several birthdays in the family during the month of July, but because of travel schedules and other conflicts, we decided to celebrate them all on the first Sunday of the month, which also happened to be Canada Day. We all wore our red & whites, except for Scott who opted for his orange soccer jersey (he pointed out that it had some white on it).

With a rare glimpse of fantastic weather we were able to enjoy flying kites, blowing bubbles and roasting marshmallows at Grandma & Grandpa's house. Perhaps summer is here to stay?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Our House Came With a Pool

The previous owners of our house left a few things behind, including a blue kiddie pool. We already had one blue kiddie pool, so now we have one on the basement patio and one on the upstairs deck. Pool parties abound (weather permitting).

Katie just loves to be in the water, and she seems willing to put up with the worst weather and the coldest water. Long after Scott has retreated to the warmth of a towel, Katie will still be in there, cheerfully chirping to herself while she fills a bucket and dumps it again.