Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Hero Is My Dad!!

Every post in my blog has been written by me .... until now. For this post, I am acquiescing to my youngest son. He wrote a "HERO" paper for his 8th grade English class, in which he named ME as his HERO!

Unbeknownst to me, he selected me as his hero, wrote the paper without assistance, turned it in (he got an "A"), and that was the end of the story .... until his teacher called me to read the story over the telephone. To say that I was unable to speak for a few moments would not do justice to the feelings of warmth and love that overcame me at that moment. To count the number of tissues that my family and I later used would seemingly take a few calculators!

In all of the roles that I have taken on in this life, perhaps the most important one is the role of "DAD" to my kids. I have done my best to properly raise my kids; give as much quality and quantity time that I can; take care of their needs; teach them to love the Lord and all of His ways; attend all of their events; teach them to take on larger roles with greater maturity; and a host of other activities.

I suppose that, from this point forward, irrespective of what anybody else says, I have at least one person who believes that I got it right!

Below is my son's "Hero" paper:

What really defines a hero? Sure there are the people in our lives, like parents, who cook dinner, make beds, and hey, maybe even take you to a ball-game or two. But are those really the standards for heroism? Frankly stated, in my opinion, no it is not. A hero is one who goes beyond the average relational duties, such as someone who risks his life to save someone he doesn’t even know or one who inspires you to do great things.

My hero is my dad. This is no surprise because parents are often seen as heroic figures by their children, but it is more than just that. My father is, by all means, my biggest inspiration, as we are both percussionists. I’ve seen and listened intently as his drumsticks blow like a breeze over the drums and mallet based instruments alike. I myself cannot comprehend how he vigorously thrashes into spontaneous solos straight from his head, as I have attempted many times. I know that I may be as good as him one day, but at the moment I can only watch in awe and learn.

My dad is a hero for more than just his musical triumphs. He is also a role model; a leader. He’s shown me what to make of myself, how to live a life of happiness and how, in my later years, to be able to look back on my life and smile. He may not even realize he’s doing this! Through his subconscious teachings I gained a desire to constantly set the bar higher for myself and I have gained a greater self-perception and view of the world. What a difference one person can make.

I am not saying he is a God or holds any other ultimate title. He is just “Dad” and in being that has made me what I am today. If I didn’t have his influence in my life, I may have made some poor choices with dire consequences.

The trait that I admire most about him is that no matter how bad times are, he is still able to smile and crack a joke. I believe a happy-go-lucky attitude is the key to a successful life. Yes, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I am not the most athletic kid in the world, but that never stopped my dad from helping me practice with, of course, a strong positive attitude. He even volunteered to be my manager of my baseball team … twice!

My hero does do all the bare essentials of parenting such as transportation, care, bringing home a steady paycheck, and even cooking! But I appreciate him on a deeper level. I see him as the man I want to be.

Through being the very person he is, my hero has earned but all of the following titles: father, husband, son, coach, pal, role-model, and teacher. Above all, he is my hero, my dad!

Wow, thank you, son! You have achieved something that very few people have ever done .... you have left me speechless!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Grand Slam Home Run!!

With spring training in full swing and the Opening Day for Major League Baseball coming in just a few weeks, it is time to confess: Yes, along with my unnatural affinity for the Detroit Lions, I have a similar and also quite unnatural affinity for the Detroit Tigers!

From the days of Willie Horton, Al Kaline, Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, and others from the 1968 World Champions through the days of Alan Trammel, Lou Whittaker, Lance Parrish, Jack Parrish, and others from the 1984 champs, and even through the dark days starting in the mid-90’s, up to the present day group, I am not sure that I have ever missed a game, in whole or in part, on the radio, television, or in person!

Also, I can’t remember a day on which I did not play baseball during my youth. Our days, long before the advent of cable television, video games, Internet, etc., usually began around 8:00 a.m. (or as soon as our moms would let us leave the house!) and then not end until dark, with the only breaks taken for lunch and dinner. Of course, on game days, we would stop much earlier to rest and get ready for the game. But, in any scenario, baseball has always been a huge part of my daily life.

So, it only seemed normal that my own children developed the same type of interest in the game. My oldest son had the perfect tools for a baseball player – long and lean with a quick swing, strong and accurate arm, excellent base running speed, and the ability to catch anything that was near.

However, despite our countless hours of batting practice at the local baseball diamond and the batting cage, he struggled to hit in games through about the age of 9 years old. Usually, the coach would place him near the bottom of the lineup and my son often did not play for entire games. He would get his three innings in the field, one or two trips to the plate, and then he would take his place on the bench. It was quite perplexing for me, as his tools were all in place, yet he struggled to hit the ball in games.

And then, the big moment arrived when he was 10-years-old: His team was involved in a game in which the following scenario was present:
a) His team trailed by 3 runs
b) The bases were loaded
c) It was the bottom of the final inning
d) There were two outs
e) A flame throwing 11-year-old was on the mound
f) And ….. my son strolled to the plate!

Well, for a dad who had worked endlessly worked with his son on his hitting skills and for a dad who previously watched his son struggle at the plate for his entire 4-year career, watching my son stroll to plate in such a pressure situation was almost too much to bear. If his career-long history held true, he would probably strike out, the game would be over, and my son would be viewed as the goat.

Here is how his at-bat unfolded:
1) First pitch – STRIIIIIKE – yelled the umpire (0-1 count)
2) Second pitch – Ball one (1-1 count)
3) Third pitch – STRIIIIIKE TWO – yelled the umpire (1-2 count)
4) Fourth pitch – Foul tip at the plate (still a 1-2 count)
5) Fifth pitch – Foul tip at the plate – (still a 1-2 count)
6) Sixth pitch – Ball two – low and outside (2-2 count)
7) Seventh pitch - ….. my son swung, made contact, and drove the ball long, deep, and far over the head of the centerfielder’s head!!!!

As the fatherly chills came all over me, I watched the runner from 3rd base score right away; the runner from 2nd base scored; and the runner from 1st base came all the way around to score! My son, running as fast as he could, began to round 3rd base. As he got half-way to home plate, the centerfielder finally picked up the ball and, before he returned the ball to the cutoff man in the infield, my son had crossed the plate for the winning run after his GRAND SLAM HOME RUN!

All of a sudden the hours of fatherly pitching and coaching had paid handsome dividends! My son was the hero and he went on to several years of excellent hitting for the rest of his elementary, middle school, and high school days. In fact, he almost never struck out again, as he had learned to make solid contact with the ball on nearly every at-bat.

The lesson learned: Never give up on your children in any scenario, particularly when they indicate an interest in an area or activity in life! My son, the previous strikeout king, had become one of the best hitters on his team for the next several years!

Yes, by hanging in there and never giving up, my son also learned an important lesson: Despite the odds of success and the repeated failures at the plate, his continued hard work led to personal success for him!!

Now, bring on the Tigers. The Home Opener is only 23 days away ..... I wonder how many of the Tigers struggled in their early years of life, but kept at it, and made it to the Major Leagues!!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dad - Are You Dead?-YIKES!!

One of the greatest worries of any child is the possible loss of one of his/her parents to death. Even with divorce, separation, or job relocation for one parent, both parents are still alive and the possibility to get together with both parents is always present.

However, when one parent dies, the possibility to get together is lost for the remainder of the child’s life on our planet. He/she will need to grow up from that point forward without one of his/her parents.

In my case, I used to consciously think about this possibility all of the time when I was a child. Fortunately, both of my parents remained alive until my father passed away when I was 30. But, I always knew that, if one of them had passed away when I was a child, my life would have radically and instantly changed.

I used to ask the following questions to myself:
1) Who would cook our dinners?
2) Who would take me to school?
3) Who would make my lunch?
4) Would I still be able to go to college?
5) Would we be able to stay in our home?
6) If we had to move, what about the friends that would be left behind?

Ah, yes, the worries of a child with regard to situations that one cannot control! But, the worries are legitimate, nonetheless.

Fast forwarding to my life as a parent, there was a time when the left front tire of my car kept running out of air. I had to stop each morning on the way to work and then again on the way home to put air in the tire. Sometimes, while driving, my car would swerve a little to the left and I’d have to work a little harder to keep the car on the road.

Obviously, there was a major problem with my tire, but with the obligations and hours at work, as well as the time that I wanted to spend with my children, there just wasn’t enough time to have the tire checked out … at least that’s how I justified it!

One day, while stopping for air for the tire, one of the mechanics came walking out to engage in a separate task. I asked him for some advice on the tire. I explained my twice-daily routine of injecting air in to the tire. After examining the tire, he told me that the tire was close to blowing up! When he learned that I log many miles on the expressway, he further explained that many people get killed with tires like this, as they explode en route, throwing the car into a violent swerve against other cars, into ditches, against railings, and under trucks!

Well, alrighty then, that little piece of news sent chills down my spine. After all, my three children did not need to explore life without their dad. While accidents can happen, the mere thought of having a preventable accident occur is unconscionable. So, I vowed at that moment that I would always take my car to a qualified mechanic at the slightest hint of an irregularity.

Later that evening in our family room, I told my wife of the “could easily get killed” story, because of the inattention to the tire. She expressed her horror, but she felt better when I told her that this would never happen again with our cars. She also vowed to tell me if there was a funny noise with her car, so that we could immediately get it addressed. We openly discussed that we wanted to ensure that both of us needed to stay alive as long as possible for our kids! I then made some more comments about the possibility of “getting killed” because of the tire.

Later that evening, I was awakened by my 8-year-old son at around 11:30 p.m. Since all of my kids sleep soundly, this awakening was an unusual occurrence. He called my name; I woke up and said hello; he then told me that he was just checking on me. He then went back to bed. At first, this didn’t make any sense. But then I wondered if he had heard of the tire story.

I thought about this situation for a moment and then I got up and went into his bedroom. I asked him if everything was O.K. He responded by asking if I had purchased a new tire. When I told him “yes”, he smiled and then covered up to go to sleep. I asked him how he knew about the tire. He told me that he had overheard the conversation between my wife and me (of course, he could have told us that he was spying around the corner!!) and that he was worried that I might die.

Oh, great! Because of my inattention to the tire, my son was now concerned that he might lose his dad. I reassured him that the tire was brand new, there are no other problems with the car, that I will always fix future car problems right away, and that he might have to put up me until I get to be 150 years old! We both laughed, hugged, and went back to sleep!

Lessons Learned Include:

a) Always take care of everything over which I have control, i.e., cars, health appointments, diet, exercise, etc., to lengthen the odds that I will remain alive for as along as possible for a variety of reasons, especially for my kids!!

b) Make sure that my kids are not “lurking” when my wife and I need to discuss serious “life” issues.

Yes, the innocence and laughter of children, however prone to lurking that they may be, are great reasons to stay alive forever!!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Confident Kids - Part 2

(Continued from February 28, 2009) ..... Of course, supervision is important to ensure that kids stay safe. But to help them really learn a new skill, it's also important not to hover. Give kids the opportunity to try something new, make mistakes, and learn from them.

For instance, if your son wants to learn how to make a peanut butter sandwich, demonstrate, set up the ingredients, and let him give it a try. Will he make a bit of a mess? Almost certainly. But don't swoop in the second some jelly hits the countertop. In fact, avoid any criticism that could discourage him from trying again. If you step in to finish the sandwich, your son will think, "Oh well, I guess I can't make sandwiches."

Ah, one of the most difficult tasks of all ….for a parent! You know that our child will make huge mistakes or messes, but it’s best to let him/her go for it. You can always clean up the mess, but you can’t always build confidence!

But if you have patience for the mess and the time it takes to learn, the payoff will be real. Someday soon he'll be able to say, "I'm hungry for lunch, so I'm going to make my own sandwich." You might even reply, "Great, can you make me one, too?" What a clear sign of your faith in his abilities!

One of the best feelings ever is when you child does something for you that he/she could not previously do for anybody – like making a sandwich!

Sometimes, it won't be you swooping in when your child falters, but your child giving up. Help by encouraging persistence in the midst of frustration. By trying again, kids learn that obstacles can be overcome.

Remember my bike story – I am not sure how my dad did it. I played sports fairly well, but the bike thing took quite a long time. However, he kept at it with me until I succeeded!

Once kids reach a goal, you'll want to praise not only the end result but also their willingness to stick with it. For instance, after your son has mastered making that peanut butter sandwich you might show your confidence by saying, "Next time, want to learn how to crack an egg?" Sandwich-fixing and egg-cracking might not seem like huge achievements, but they're important steps in the right direction — toward your child's independence.

Yes, by constantly setting the bar higher, you give our kids the opportunity to always strive higher for achievement with the confidence that they will succeed.

Throughout childhood, parents have chances to prepare kids to take care of themselves. Sure, it's great to feel needed, but as kids steadily gain confidence and independence, their relationship with you can be even richer. You can be bonded, not just by dependence, but by love and shared pride in all they've achieved. Eventually, your grown-up kids just might say thanks for how prepared they feel for the road ahead — a road they can take with confidence.

Yes, give your kids the chances to be successful, help and encourage them when the fail, lead them to victory, and then spur them on to bigger challenges and successes!

Your kids will love you forever for the time that you spent with them teaching them to be successful and CONFIDENT! So get that peanut butter and jelly ready - you can clean the mess later!

Paul W. Reeves