Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Coach's Son (Part 5)

(Continued from July 23, 2011) ….  From a baseball standpoint, their plan of the assistant coaches worked like a charm! My son banged a double, another single, and drew a walk, knocked in two runs and scored three before the final inning.

Defensively, he made four routine catches, threw a runner out at second who had been trying to stretch a single into a double and  … well, then this happened:

A batter hit a deep flyball to centerfield; my son turned around with his back to the infield and ran like a deer; he turned around to face the infield and make the catch and then … promptly fell down flat on his back! He sat up; raised his glove; and … MADE THE CATCH! The entire crowd was cheering mightily including, again, the fans, players, and coaches from the other team. Our own fans, players, and coaches were going extra berserk!

The opposing manager ran up to him between innings and told him that it was the best catch that he had ever seen. He just might have been correct!

To add frosting to the cake, our team won the game, 11-9!

Well, clearly, the assistant coaches had raised a great point! Leaving my own son in for the entire game, against my fairness plan, had worked, as it propelled us to victory!

So, after the players’ celebration and post-game talk, I began to head to the parking lot, fully embracing for the “favoritism” comments that were sure to come my way.

The first two parents said something along the lines of, “Hey coach – great victory.” Whew! Maybe not as bad as I thought!

The third parent asked to see me privately. Uh-oh, I thought. The parent said, “My own son is not a very good player, but your son is pretty good. I don’t know why you kept taking him out, but I was about to pull my son off of the team, as I really wanted him to have the experience of winning. Listen, my son is good at painting and your son is good at baseball. Just go with it.”

The fourth and fifth parents came together and said, “Great job, coach … really great job.” I said, “Thank you. It was nice to get a win.”

Parents 4 and 5 said, seemingly in unison, “We were being sarcastic! Sure, tonight you did a great job, but why did you keep taking your own son every other inning? We don’t care about fairness- we care to win, so leave him in.”

Those parents were less than friendly in their missive, but the message was now clear. Everybody wanted to win, even if it meant that his or her own kid had to ride the bench!

A few other parents came up to me, obviously in a good winning mood, to pass along similar thoughts of great victory, nice job, etc. It was clear that everybody enjoyed being part of a winner, even if their own kid had to ride the bench more than others!

Well, alrighty then, I threw away my “beautiful plan” of fairness, arranged the lineup to ensure that the best players were in the game for as many innings as possible, only substituting for rightfield and second base, and …. we went 8-1 for the rest of the season!

A lesson on winning for the kids and a lesson for the coach on “fairness” and the true desires of most people - …. WINNING!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Coach's Son (Part 4)

(Continued from July 16, 2011) …… Well, true to form and my “beautiful plan”, my son started in centerfield for the next game. He made a fairly routine catch in the first inning, got a single to start a rally, and then he promptly took his place on the bench, so that another player could get an inning in the field.

The second inning started and another routine flyball was hit to centerfield and …. it was not caught! The batter took second base, from where he later scored the first of three runs for the other team.

Right after the flyball was not caught, one of my assistant coaches came up to me and said in a not overly friendly voice, “Why don’t you keep your son out there for the whole game? This is ridiculous!” I explained my logic on being fair to all players, even though it meant that my own son would have ride the pine.

The assistant coach said in an even harsher tone, “Well, he’s the best darned outfielder that we have and, if you just keep taking him out, we will keep losing. This isn’t Little League, you know – the kids and parents expect to win, so put him in there and don't take him out!"

I threw the idea by my other assistant coach and he quickly retorted, “It’s about time! I appreciate you being fair to all players, but I think that we would all be even more appreciative if you would play to win, even if some kids don’t play much.”

Somewhat startled that my plan of “fairness” had ticked off a few people, I told the assistant coaches that my son would be in centerfield for the rest of the game. Of course, I was fully prepared for the “favoritism” tag that would be assigned to me by some of the parents after the game, but I was prepared to hear all about it.

So, how did it go with my son in centerfield for the rest of the game? How did the parents react? Please come back next week to find out!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Coach's Son (Part 3)

(Continued from July 9, 2011) …. Well, the season started and in accordance with my beautifully developed substitution plan of fairness and, …. we lost badly! To make matters worse, my own son, who was starting to make a name for himself as one of the better centerfielders, was on the bench when a few fly balls were hit to centerfield and missed by the substitutes who would have ordinarily been on the bench!

Oh well, I thought, at least the kids got a chance to play; they participated; perhaps they learned a few things; and they certainly did not rot on the bench … but, we still lost …. badly!

To digress, way back when I was nine-years-old, we won the championship for the league. I, along with several other players, played every inning of every game. Two boys on the team played the minimum of three innings per week in the field and they were allowed to bat the minimum of once per week. With 14 available innings a week, that means that they only played 3 of 14 innings, while only batting once.

Essentially, those two guys rotted on the bench. When we won the championship, they were happy to get a trophy, but there was an emptiness to their season. I have never forgotten the looks on their faces at many points during the season, as well as when they received their trophies. They were lost souls, as they realized that they had contributed nothing to the championship and it seemed to be obvious to them that they only reason that they ever left the bench was so that the coaches would be in compliance with league rules. The fact that they got their three innings when we were way ahead in the game could not have helped their self-esteem much, either.

As you might have guessed, neither boy ever played baseball again and, in fact, neither boy ever tried out for another team in any sport all the way through high school.

So, again, with my newly established philosophy, we might not win as many games, but all of the guys and their parents would be happy, … or so I thought!

At any rate, after we lost about 4-5 games in a row to start he season, my own son was back in centerfield and he ran down a ball that was destined to be a home run for the other team. The ball was hit far over his head. Upon landing, the ball would have rolled forever, thereby clearing the loaded bases. However, my son ran as fast as he could and, at the very last minute and with his back to the infield, reached out and caught the ball, a la Willie Mays at the ol’ Polo Grounds – he then wheeled around and threw a one bounce strike to third base to double off the runner!

Even though he is my own son, I must admit that it was one of the best plays that I had ever seen made by a 15-year-old centerfielder! He is blessed with great speed, but his baseball instincts to run the ball down and then fire a strike to 3rd base elicited major cheers even from the OPPOSING FANS!

Of course, true to my beautiful plan, he was on the bench the next inning. A fairly routine fly ball was hit to centerfield and … it was not caught – it was not even touched! Two runs scored, opening the floodgates for more runs and … we lost again … badly!

So, did this coach stick with his “beautiful plan” or were changes made that led us to victory? Please come back next week to find out!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Coach's Son (Part 2)

(Continued from July 2, 2011) ...... So, the season began and I spent many hours developing lineup cards that would be fair to all. Yes, in some cases, I realized that some of the better players would be sitting on the bench for a few innings, but my goal was to be fair to all and provide a positive experience for them!

As every single player had to be put into the batting lineup, there weren't many choices there. My only choice was where to place each player in the order. The fact that they had to bat in the lineup was a decision that had been already made by the league rule book.

However, the decision-making came with placing players in the field. While I never placed a player in a position where he was doomed to fail, I did try to put the players in positions where they had a chance for success. In any event, all players were going to have several innings in the field. Sitting on the bench was considered to be a temporary position for any boy.

I also developed something different for our team: instead of using the time-honored tradition of playing a boy in the field for the first 3 innings and then sitting for the final 4 innings (a tough position for any kid - knowing that he just has to sit around for an hour or so with ZERO opportunity of getting back in), I rotated their innings.

While some of the so-called “better” players played nearly every inning, the lesser players played innings 1-3-5-7 or 2-4-6 - I was careful to mix up the lineup, so that we had optimal players at the most demanding positions.

By using this method, I believed that I was guaranteed to have a guy's attention on the game for the full game. Fortunately for all, this method worked and everybody, including all of the players sand their parents, seemed to be happy, as every players and his parents were guaranteed 3 or 4 innings per game in the field, regular turns in the batting order, and the opportunity to be directly in each game until the final out.

Wow, I had certainly hit the home run with this long-anticipated philosophy that I was finally able to put in place as a coach. Letting the kids play regularly was certain to be a major success …..........  or so I thought!

(Please come back next week for Part 3)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Coach's Son (Part 1)

Well, as we are full-blast into the summer baseball season on the local front, I have already received more than a few inquiries from dads-turned-coaches who want to know how much their own sons should play in comparison to the other kids on the team.

Similar to how it was when I coached, each player MUST play “X” number of innings per game or per week, thereby ensuring that perhaps better players will be on the bench for portions of the game, while some of the heretofore less than successful players get to play. After all, if they don’t play, they can’t improve!

When one adds to the equation that the parents paid the same entry fee and that many parents believe that their sons just might become the next Ty Cobb with a little practice and coaching, well, life can become interesting for a coach!

Way back in the dark ages when I was a child, my own dad was the coach of my team for 6 of my first 7 years in baseball. With his help on the fundamentals of baseball since I was old enough to walk, I was always one of the players who had been designated to play every inning of every game. There were several of us who fit this role and it was not an issue with the other parents that the coach’s son played all of the time, while others played more sparingly. Back then, the object of the game was to WIN!

Fast-forwarding several years, the object of the local game is to involve everybody on a mostly equal basis. However, since winning is still important, it is understood if certain players play more than others, as long as it is demonstrated that those players are clearly above the others in their levels of talent.

Some years ago, my older son was a fine baseball player. However, on that particular team (I was not the coach nor was I connected to the coaches), the two coaches played their sons for every inning for every game. One of the boys was a fine player, but the other was less than average. Nevertheless, both boys occupied important positions in the field and in the lineup for every inning of every game, while my son played about half of every game.

So, while I sat in the stands watching my son ride the pines while the coaches’ sons played all of the time with less ability, I silently seethed! I also observed what the coaches had to go through with other parents; I gained more respect for my dad’s previous coaching; and I always wondered how I would approach the same situation if I were to ever be a coach.

I had decided that, if I were to become a coach, I would play my son less than a full game, so that other parents would see me as fair. Yes, I had it all figured out: I would play my son for partial games; let others, including the less than talented, play more innings than other coaches would have allowed; and everybody would be happy ….. or so I thought!

(Please come back next week for Part 2)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Father's Day - Part 2

(Continued from June 18, 2011) ........

15) The dad, a long-time computer guy long before computers found their way in to homes, told the son to get a computer, because he would need it for everything in life within a few yeas. The son refused. The dad then showed up at the son’s work one day with a huge computer – paid for by the dad. The son used it for years before upgrading a few times – the dad was right!

16) The son, for many years questioning the wisdom of his father, later in life learned that the dad had been far beyond his years in wisdom. Interestingly, the same scenario is unfolding with the son’s children many years later.

17) In the son’s neighborhood, ALL boys owned a BB gun. One day the son, an expert marksman in his own right (at least that's his story!), fired a shot at a garbage can – a normal occurrence. The dad was on the other side of the can and the shot scared the dad. The BB gun was instantly and permanently retired on that day!

18) In later life, after the dad was making a very good living, the dad told the son that there had been times during which the family had not been able to afford shoes for the two kids. Funny, the kids always had new shoes and everything else that they needed. The son never knew that funds were low when he was a little kid.

19) When the son bought a new front door for his own home, the dad asked the son how he would install it and he offered to help. The son declined the offer for help. On the next day, while the son was struggling with the directions, the dad showed up and installed the door. He just knew.

20) The son, watching his dad’s health get weaker with the job, watched his father’s face light up when he held the son’s baby daughter – moments that the son will never forget!

21) In the dad’s final summer, the dad and son bonded again while completing home projects together at the hours of the mom and dad.

22) When funds were quite low (although the son did not know this), the dad took out a loan to purchase a brand new Buddy Rich drumset for his son – the exact drumset that the son had always wanted! 35 years later, the son still owns this drumset; it is still in perfect condition; and the son’s son uses it now, too. Oh, and the son used the drumset to put himself through college and make a few extra bucks for married life.

23) Played catch almost every single day after work during the son’s formative years - this gave the son needed confidence to excel at baseball.

24) Coached the son in bowling – the son later went on to win the highest average in the league award several times, mostly because the dad showed a great interest in his son’s weekly battle with the lanes.

25) The dad, knowing that he was going to die in the hospital, refused to tell the son that he was even ill, so that the son would not worry; so that the son would keep working and not take time off; and so that the son would not see his dad in a suddenly frail state. However, at the moment of death, the son, 25 miles away and not even knowing that his dad was ill, knew that he had just lost a friend, a huge supporter, and his dad all at once.

O.K., with all of that unselfish fatherly love bestowed upon a son, you might think that the young man might become spoiled!! Well, ..... I don’t know ..... do you think that I’m spoiled????

That’s right! Those 25 items describe my own dad, but they only scratch the surface!

To the best father in the world – THANK YOU, DAD! I REALLY MISS YOU! If my kids someday consider me to be as great a parent as you – my life's mission will be completed. Thank you for the lessons on being a great parent!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day - Part 1

Well, tomorrow is Father’s Day, the day on which tons of neckties and books are liberally given to dads all over the land! So, what are 25 of the top one million things that a father can do for his son (the son who will someday be a dad)? Well, spread over the next two weeks, here they are:

1) Coached his son’s T-Ball team when the child was only 7-years-old and encouraged and coached him while the son went 33-34 at the plate, after following his dad’s advice to hit everything toward 3rd base, because nobody at that age could fire the ball to first base in time to get the kid out!

2) Managed his son’s baseball teams at age 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, and 14. Had to miss managing the 10-year-old season due to a work commitment in another state – a season that the father and son always regretted.

3) Always expected more from his son in practice and games than he expected from the other boys. While the son felt somewhat pressured, he credits his dad’s driving him with his making the all-star team as the shortstop!

4) After the son continued to believe that the father was “too tough” on him in practice and in games, the dad agreed to step down as his son’s manager for the first time.

5) In one of his first games with somebody other than his father as the manager, the kid, now 15-years-old, pitched the 2nd no-hitter of his career. After the game, the son was barely able to get his father’s attention. The kid’s feelings were hurt. Later, after asking the dad for the reason behind the blow off, the kid learned that the dad had been near tears and would have broken down in front of everybody had the two spoken right after the game.

6) After refusing to get the kid another dog (the first two dogs had passed away within months of coming into the home), the father, after being away for 10 weeks and missing his son’s 10-year-old baseball season, allowed the son to get another dog – a magnificent collie who would become a buddy to the father and son.

7) After the magnificent collie passed away years later and after the son moved out and got married, the father got another collie.

8) After watching his son make two egregious mistakes in a basketball game in front of what seemed to be about a thousand people, the dad used the next morning to berate his child for his poor play and for embarrassing the family and the team. While the son thought that this treatment was harsh at the time, the son later realized that the ‘chewing out” had awakened him toward a quest for excellence in all that he did.

9) The dad wore a suit to work every single day – a trend that the son had decided to follow for his own career.

10) Although he had resisted purchasing a swimming pool for his children, the father eventually gave in; bought a pool; and the whole family used it as a gathering place for family fun for years.

11) Refused to let his son swim on game days until after the game, because the pros did not swim on game days.

12) Early on told the son that he would be going to college and he would earn at least one degree. There would be no discussing the matter. Nobody was more proud than the dad when the son walked across the stage to receive his B.A.

13) Demanded that the son perform regular tasks around the house, i.e., taking put the garbage, shoveling snow, etc. However, when the son started taking care of the lawn on days of 95 degrees, the dad told the son to slow down and not work so hard - apparently the dad believed that his years-long message had gotten through too well!

14) Even though the two had a breakdown in communication during the son’s final year of college, mostly due to the father’s stress at work, the dad later became a nightly visitor at the apartment of his son and new bride.

(Please come back next Saturday for the conclusion of the Father's Day Top 25!)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dad - Take Your Medicine! - Part 2

(Continued from June 4, 2011) …… During the next 7 months, with the dad returning to full health, all of the family’s activities returned to normal, including bike riding, rollerblading, exploring in the backyard, vacation, and, well, Katrina and her dad were as happy as could be (the mom, too!) that all was back to normal!

Then ….. one Saturday morning about 7 months after the dad started to heal, the dad woke up and realized that he was devastatingly beat tired. No symptoms or sickness, just a day on which the dad knew that he would need to sleep a lot more to catch up from the previous weeks of activity. Not a big deal to the dad. At about 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, he told his wife that, even though he had been awake for only a few minutes, he would be going back to bed to sleep for a few more hours.

Katrina, upon noticing that her dad was still sleeping and suspecting that he was getting sick again, entered his dad’s room to wake him up and ask him to go for a bike ride. The dad told her that he was beat tired; he would need to sleep for a while longer; and that they could go for a bike ride later. 8-year-old Katrina, quite concerned for her dad, said O.K. and left the room.

At around noon, Katrina came back in and told her dad that he needed to get up, as the day was getting away from him and she knew that the dad wanted to go bike riding and that his favorite college football team would be on TV soon (Katrina knew that the dad would never miss a game of his favorite college football team!).

The dad again told Katrina that he was tired and would need to sleep more. Katrina asked him if he were sick and the dad told her that he was fine, but he needed to sleep more.

Katrina, becoming almost deathly afraid that her dad was about to sink back into poor health and maybe even die (remember, these are the thoughts of an 8-year-old), went to her room to pray and cry. She later told the mom that dad was sick and that he needed to get to a doctor. The mom tried to assure her that the dad was fine and that he just needed to sleep.

Katrina persisted so, at about 2:00 p.m., the mom and Katrina went to the bedroom to check on the dad. As they awoke the dad to check on his condition, the dad insisted that he was beat tired; he was not sick; and that he would get up soon.

The mom was convinced that the dad was fine and she told Katrina that all was well. However, Katrina was not convinced and she even suspected that the parents were trying to keep the bad news from her.

At about 4:00 p.m., Katrina, knowing that the dad should have had two doses of his medicine by now, asked the mom if the dad had taken his medicine. The mom said probably not, as he had been sleeping all day. The mom assured Katrina that the dad would take his medicine when he awoke.

Katrina, not one to wait around on the health of her dad and fully remembering what his condition was like before the medicine, immediately went to the kitchen, poured a glass of water, got two of her dad’s pills, and headed for the bedroom.

Katrina woke her dad and told him that he had to get up right away to take his medicine. The dad said that he was fine and that he would take his medicine when he awoke. Katrina said that he had to take it now, per the directions on the bottle.

The dad, instantly recognizing for the first time that Katrina was concerned that her dad was getting sick again, took the medicine with Katrina watching.

The dad told me that he saw a visible sense of relief within Katrina, as she believed that all was now well with the ingesting of the medicine. Within an hour or so, the dad, who usually did not sleep that much, arose from his nearly 14 hours of sleep to eat, get dressed, and go outside for, … you guessed it…. a bike ride with Katrina!

And there you have it, the love of a daughter for her dad to the point that she worried; prayed; kept on the dad to get up; and then finally insisted that he take his medicine might have provided the greatest gift of all from a daughter. She was only 8-years-old, but she took the bull by the horns to make sure that her dad would be around for a whole bunch of years by having him take his medicine!

By the end of telling this story, the dad was somewhat overcome by tears and his wife and I comforted him. He had been alive and had done just fine for about 30 years or so without Katrina. The fact that a little girl who had been created 8 years earlier had such a deep love for him as her dad was almost too much for the dad to take as he retold the story.

At some point, the mom and dad headed for the car. They asked me to tell Katrina to head for the car after she was done packing up from the concert.

About 10 minutes later, Katrina came to find me to ask if I knew the whereabouts of her parents. I told her that they were in the car waiting for her. Suddenly showing concern, Katrina asked if everything was O.K. with her parents. Resisting from telling her that she just might win the award for daughter-of-the-year, I simply told her that, “Yes, Katrina, everything is fine. In fact, everything is terrific!”

With a gigantic smile and a somewhat sense of relief from Katrina, she headed for the car to join her favorite parents!

So, how about you? As we prepare the descent to Father’s Day, tell me about the favorite moments when you realized that your kids were special!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dad - Take Your Medicine! - Part 1

Several years ago, I had a student named Katrina. Katrina was an excellent student, very appreciative of all things in life; made friends easily; and seemed to be destined for a terrific life!

One evening after a concert, I was telling her parents how well that Katrina had been doing in class and that I thought that she would make an excellent teacher. Her dad told me that Katrina had always been a very giving person – always concerned for the welfare of others. I told him that I wholeheartedly agreed.

The dad told me that she was the most special girl in the entire world. He seemed to get a little misty-eyed when he said that, but I could not figure out why. I had already had hundreds of these types of conversations with parents, but none that so quickly induced wet eyes with a father.

He asked me if I had a few moments to hear a story about his daughter. I told him yes, so he began this terrific story:

When Katrina was 8-years-old, the dad had been suddenly stricken with an affliction in which he lost about 40 pounds in 3 weeks; could not eat or drink without getting violently ill within seconds; had undergone several medical tests; and the doctors could find nothing wrong. In short, the dad believed that he had gone from a healthy and vibrant dad to one who was quickly on his way to checking out … permanently!

Katrina and her dad had a wonderful father-daughter relationship, as they did everything together, including bike riding, talking about friends, exploring the world, etc. In fact, despite his busy schedule, the dad always made time for Katrina. Yes, Katrina thought that her dad was the best dad in the whole world and the dad thought that Katrina was the best daughter in the world!

To see her dad riding a bike at break-neck speeds and rollerblading around the rink one day to becoming frail and unable to eat or drink only three weeks later had a devastating effect on Katrina. She loved her dad and she was willing to do anything to keep him alive. Of course, she was only 8, so her options were somewhat limited. All that Katrina could do was to be available to assist the mom in any way possible and pray.

At any rate, after three weeks of watching her dad glide quickly to what seemed to be a certain demise, the dad’s doctor sent him to a specialist. After hearing the symptoms, the specialist surmised that he knew what the problem was, but he also wanted to check for cancer.

After running the normal tests, the specialist determined that the dad was suffering from a treatable malady with medicine and that the dad should be as good as new within a few weeks!!! The doctor also explained that, had the dad not come in for the tests, his situation would have continued its quick downward spiral toward the end!

Wow, what a relief for everybody. It now seemed like the dad would be able to grow old with his favorite daughter and that Katrina would be able to have her dad for many years to come!

Well, the dad began to faithfully take his medicine three separate times per day and, just like the doctor said, he somewhat quickly came back to health with a renewed vitality. While his health started to get better right away, his energy and strength took a little longer, but by about the 8-week mark, the dad was as good as new. In fact, since he did not put all of the weight back on, he looked and felt better than ever!

(Please come back next week for Part 2)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cheating is Never Good - Part 3

(Continued from May 21, 2011) ...... A few days later, I received a telephone call from Karen’s dad. I fully expected a giant thank you and kudos! However, I instead received a minor tongue lashing because I did not intervene with Karen’s professor. They believed that a call from me would have gone a long way toward boosting Karen’s grade. I listened for a long time before I reminded him that cheating was never right; he had never coached Karen to cheat; and I told him that I was more than a little disappointed and surprised that he wanted me to help a cheater, even though it was Karen, get away with it!

He reminded me of how much he and his wife had done for me in the past and were still continuing to do. As such, he believed that I owed them as much in return.

While I wished that there had been something that I could have done to help with the grade, after all Karen was a great kid and here parents were terrific, the simple truth was that Karen had CHEATED and she had flirted with permanent dismissal from the university. Even if a phone call from me would have helped, it would have been wrong, as it would have taught Karen that it was fine to cheat and then get bailed out when caught.

Karen still called a couple of times a year and visited me once a year during the rest of her college years. Her parents did not keep up the contact and, when I called them on a few occasions, it was clear that they did not want to talk to me.

After Karen graduated from college with mostly “A’s”, a few “B’s””, and one “D-“, she came to see me. We talked about the old times in school, her college days, and her college years. Then Karen thanked me for my stand during her first year of college. She now realized that, had I gone to bat for her, she would have never learned her lesson and she might have relied on the plagiarism trick a few more times, instead of actually learning the material.

She told me that she had learned a valuable lesson and that she had me to thank for it. I told her that I was glad that she had understood and that I would have done the same exact thing for my own children. I also told her that it hurt me to watch her suffer with the "D-", but that I knew her long-term potential depended on following the right road.

I then asked about her parents. She told me that they had been upset with me for a few years and that the topic was discussed off and on since the moment that it happened. But, with a slight smirk, Karen told me that I might be getting a phone call from her parents in the near future. We finished our conversation and agreed to keep in touch over the years!

About a week later, Karen’s dad called me and said that he and his wife wanted to meet me for lunch. We set a day and time and ended the conversation.

On the day of the big lunch, I was just a tad uneasy, as I expected another to tongue-lashing over the cheating incident that occurred almost four years ago.

As I entered the restaurant, Karen’s dad and then her mom hugged me with some force! They profusely apologized for their previous behavior and their subsequent treatment of me. They said that it had taken four years, but that they now realized that I had done the right thing by not intervening for Karen and that now, four years later, they realized that my action had actually helped to make Karen a stronger person!

Well, it had taken four years, but I was finally back in good graces with Karen’s parents. To this day we are still friends and the incident has been forgotten – sort of! We still talk about it once in a while, but not often. Karen has gone to be highly successful (no surprise there!) in her chosen profession and her parents are continuing to offer their services to the school.

But, even though this story has a happy ending, it must not be forgotten that I was not interested in a pleasant ending as much as I was interested in helping a young college student to learn to do things properly, a lesson that would pay much higher dividends in life than a phone call to a professor.

I have shared this story with my own kids since they were quite young. Cheating is always bad; following the rules is always good; and … just like Karen, I will not bail you out when you knowingly break the rules! So far …. so good!

How about you? Have you ever had to choose between intervening for your kids when they have committed a nefarious act and telling them to buck up and accept the consequences and not repeat the act again? Let me know!

Ah yes, parenting continues to be difficult, but rewarding!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cheating is Never Good - Part 2

(Continued from May 14, 2011) ..... However, I told her that I had to know ALL of the facts before I would place a telephone call. The last thing that I wanted to do, I told her, was to call the professor or his supervisor and THEN receive additional information that would make it seem foolish that a telephone call had been made.

Karen began to cry over the telephone. She then gave a few more details that she had previously withheld.

While Karen had maintained an “A” during the semester, her final exam, which included a research project that had to be handed in on the day of the final exam, had been plagiarized. Yes, Karen, the All-America kid and former student, had cheated on her final exam and she had been caught.

Her explanation was that she had been stressed, overworked, and ran out of time to properly complete the project.  She knew that she was wrong, but still wondered, actually she begged me, if I could intervene.

Similar to disciplining your own children, I had to explain to Karen that she had committed an egregious act; the professor could have, and probably should have, failed her for the class; the professor could have, and probably should have, sent her report to the compliance office, whereupon Karen would have been expelled from the university.

As such, I told her that I would not be intervening on her behalf. Rather, she should consider herself as fortunate, as her grade of a “D-“, while looking poor on her report card, helped to save her standing in the university. I also told her to NEVER cheat again, as it is never a solution to any issue. Proper planning, as she had done as far back as her middle days with me, is the only way to get through college.

I also told her that she would need to explain everything to her parents and face the music there. As her parents would soon be seeing her report card, it was best if she explained the situation before the card arrived.
She agreed that she had erred; that she would accept the “D-“; and that she would tell her parents.

(So, Karen told her parents and they thanked me for my intervention, right? Well, come back next week to discover the "joy" that awaited me!)

Paul W. Reeves 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cheating is Never Good - Part 1

Several years ago, I had a student named “Karen” (not her real name, but she did give permission for this story). Karen was the perfect student, always respectful, hard-working, leader, intelligent, and popular with students and staff. Overall, she was a teacher’s dream to have in class.

Karen, along with several other students, made a habit of coming in my room before school, spending lunch in my room, and paying after school visits before she headed home. Additionally, as I had Karen in class for three years, I got to know her parents really well. Her dad used to coordinate the logistics of concert nights and cable television broadcasts and her mom was very active with distributing uniforms and planning our annual out-of-state trips.

It was always sad when students departed at the end of the year, sadder when they left for good, and especially sad when it was a student with whom I had formed a bond. She and her parents had even approached me to offer free babysitting services! We never took them up on the offer, but the offer was an extension of a great relationship between a teacher, student, and parents.

Although I heard from Karen a couple of times a year during her high school days, I had moved on to helping other kids and she had moved on to advanced studies and preparation for college. However, I still kept I touch with her parents. They were terrific people and my wife and I enjoyed their company. In particular, though, they continued to support our band program by helping other parents learn the ropes.

Near the end of Karen’s first semester of college, she called me at my office. While it was certainly great to hear from her, I could tell that she appeared to be in some distress, which, I assumed, was the purpose of the telephone call.

Karen did not waste much time getting to the point of her telephone call. She told me that a professor was giving her a “D-“ in one of her classes, even though she had maintained an “A” throughout the semester and even though she had earned a “B” on her final exam.

Clearly, this did not make any sense and I assumed that it was simply an error in the professor’s grade book. I dispensed my advice to Karen, which included telling her to speak with the professor about her grade. She told me that she had already spoken to him and that he had told her that her grade of a “D-“ was final. He also told her that if she pushed the issue, he would fail her for the class and report her to the office at the university.

An unusual story suddenly became much more dramatic, at least in my mind. How could a professor give an “A” student a “D-“ and then tell her to, in essence, keep quite or he would fail her?

Karen was attending the same university that I had attended in when I pursued my first college degree. As such, she thought that I might know the professor and she hoped that I would intervene with him. I had to tell Karen that I did not know her professor, but that I would be willing to make a telephone call on her behalf. 

(So, did I call her professor to get the grade changed? Please come back next week to find out!)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day - THANK YOU!

Well, tomorrow is Mother’s Day, the day on which the second most telephone calls are made and the second most gifts are given in the year (Christmas is #1 every year)! So, what are 25 of the top one million things that a mother can do for her son (the son who will someday be a dad)? Well, here they are:

1) Make him feel loved, nurtured, and taken care of every single day

2) Be there when he is sick or upset and tend to his wounds

3) Make his favorite breakfast every day (with the understanding that his “favorite” will change on a routine basis)

4) Sacrifice her own needs and desires to make sure that her son’s needs and desires are met (without ever telling her son that she made sacrifices)

5) Having a complete homemade dinner ready every single night – other than the occasional pizza night

6) Ensuring that his clothes are clean for school every day

7) Completely washing, drying, and ironing his entire baseball uniform between games of a double header – in plenty of time to get him back to the field for the 2nd game

8) Shooting him a couple of extra bucks when he goes out on a date in high school even though the son never asked – she just knows

9) Somehow finding the funds – when funds are really tight – to purchase the professional drum set of his dreams – a drum set that he could then use to put himself through college, pay for gas and miscellaneous expenses, and even tuck away some cash for the future

10) Getting his drum set to the football field and unloading it by herself while her son practices with the high school band

11) Somehow finding the funds to send him to a jazz camp in Indiana, providing transportation to get him there, returning mid-week to deliver his own drums because he thought that he needed them, and then returning at week’s end to watch his concert, load the drums, and get him home

12) Making sure that he had a nice new suit for his first music gig

13) Never missing one of his endeavors, baseball, basketball, bowling, concerts, etc. - always there in the front row

14) Creating – from scratch – the perfect Santa Claus suit for his 2nd grade play

15) Being there to celebrate every single victory, both no-hitters, every hit and home run, every basket, every strike, and every musical note and still be willing to listen to him re-tell the stories of his endeavors on their way home and at home

16) When her son grows up – watching her grandchildren while her son and wife go away for the weekend – many times

17) Allowing him to get a dog when she really didn’t want one – and then also falling in love with the dog – and nurturing the dog in his final days after her son marries and moves away

18) Always telling her son that she has high aspirations for him in life and reassuring him that he will succeed as long as he works hard

19) Making him a full breakfast at 3:00 a.m. when her son gets home from a gig and is starving

20) Cooking complete dinners and delivering them to his home after he gets married, so that he and his wife will not have to cook late at night after returning home from work and night college classes

21) Always sensing when her son is under stress or duress and encouraging him to slow down and take a deep breath

22) Being supportive with her grandchildren – her son’s children – even when she might wish to give them a kick in the pants

23) Befriending her son’s wife through the years even though they did not always see eye-to-eye at the beginning stages of their relationship

24) Falling in love with her son’s new dog and becoming inseparable with the dog when they are together

25) When facing testing for her upcoming cancer surgery – telling her son to go to work and not worry .. she’ll take a cab to the hospital

O.K., with all of that unselfish motherly love bestowed upon a son, you might think that the young man might become spoiled!! Well, ..... I don’t know ..... do you think that I’m spoiled????

That’s right! Those 25 items describe my own mom, but they only scratch the surface!

To the best mother in the world – THANK YOU, MOM! If my kids someday consider me to be as great a parent as you – my life's mission will be completed. Thank you for the lessons on being a great parent!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Little Boy to Big Fiddler (Part 4)

(Continued from April 23, 2011) …… But, then, the unthinkable happened. What happened next was not expected; not thought about in advance; and certainly no preparation had been made.

Early in the play, Tevye came back out to sing “If I Were a Rich Man”, all in full character, with the gestures of an old man coupled with a sparkling Russian Jewish accent. Who was this kid playing Tevye???

Not too long into the song, the floodgates opened for the dad. The dad, always the rock of the family, absolutely broke down and began to shed tears at his son’s performance, as Brady was no longer Brady, he was an old Russian Jewish man named Tevye!!!

As the “Tevye” role is prominent in the “Fiddler”, Tevye spends much of the play on stage, narrating, leading the family and town, and singing.

The dad could not get his eyes to be dry. He was quite thankful for the darkness of the theater, although he knew that intermission would be coming at some point! Intermission came and, of course, others in the area noticed the dad’s basket case appearance. The dad offered some sort of flimsy excuse about allergies, but everybody knew what was going on.

The dad looked at the mom and he was happy and surprised to see that she had been suffering from the same type of “allergies”!!

Nobody is really sure of where this started – perhaps it was when the dad awakened Brady as an infant by singing baby songs and substituting Brady’s name; perhaps it started when the mom, dad, and kids first started singing, dancing, and being silly on a daily and nightly basis; perhaps it started when Brady played a drum solo in front of a crown of about 600 people, even though he had only been playing the drums for two months – the crowd went crazy for Brady and maybe that was the moment that he realized that he liked being on stage! Who knows when or how or why it started?

What his parents do know is this: Brady has progressed in many areas of life to the point that other students, his older siblings, and even his parents admire his work, his preparation, his drive, and his overall approach to hard work, while still being very kind to everybody!

As the dad told Brady before opening night, Brady would remember his “Fiddler” performances for the rest of his life, due to the significance of the role. What he did not tell Brady was that the dad and mom would remember the performances for the rest of their lives, as well.

What the dad did not know beforehand was this: The “Allergies” would return every single time that his mom or dad even tried to think about Brady’s performances!

Brady – your parents did not think that you could have possibly made them prouder of you and the way that you approach life. But, you have far surpassed their previous levels of admiration for you! Keep up the great work in all that you do in life!

So, what is the lesson in all of this? The same thing that I have been saying for years: Spending quality and quantity time with your children; monitor their behavior to keep them out of harm’s way; encourage them in their efforts; always be there for them; and, of course, always know that your kids are watching YOU, even to the point that your silliness around the house might lead to the role of “Tevye” and severe “allergy” problems!

Now, if somebody could hand the dad a tissue – his “Allergies” are acting up again!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Little Boy to Big Fiddler (Part 3)

(Continued from April 16, 2011) …… To help Brady prepare for the role, mom, dad, and Brady traveled about 6 hours one way to see a professional theatrical production of “Fiddler on the Roof”. In that 2-3 hour moment in time, it all came together for Brady. He noticed how the professional actor took command of the stage and how he made the play his own. Brady did not see a young man on stage playing an old guy. He believed that he actually saw Tevye. With that knowledge and additional coaching from home, Brady set out to become Tevye, not just a high school junior acting in the role. He became immersed in the script; practiced with the CD; and watched the movie of “Fiddler” many times to help him to prepare for the role.

Although the rehearsals were closed to parents, Brady would give a day-to-day rundown of the rehearsals. At one point, Brady came home and announced that he believed that he had finally become Tevye. He had gotten to the point to where he believed that he was actually thinking like Tevye and not Brady trying to be Tevye.

Wow, this was all new to the dad, but he was excited and encouraged that Brady was pleased with his rehearsals. In the days leading up to the opening night performance, the dad did not fully know what to expect. Quite honestly, the dad would have been pleased to see Brady get through this major role with not forgetting his lines or not hitting wrong notes while singing. In reality, the dad had no clue as to what to expect with Brady’s portrayal of Tevye.

Well, opening night finally came, and the mom and dad got there early to get front row seats. The show began with Brady/Tevye coming to give the opening speech of the play, which led to the full cast coming out to sing and dance “Tradition”. Through the opening moments, the dad could not see much of Brady on stage. Rather, he saw Tevye. Wow, what a great opening sequence of events for the dad to watch.

But, then, the unthinkable happened. What happened next was not expected; not thought about in advance; and certainly no preparation had been made.

Tevye came back out to sing “If I were a Rich Man”, all in full character, with the gestures of an old man coupled with a sparkling Russian Jewish accent. Who was this kid playing Tevye???

Not too long into the song, the floodgates opened for the dad. The dad, always the rock of the family, absolutely broke down and began to shed tears at his son’s performance, as Brady was no longer Brady, he was an old Russian Jewish man named Tevye!!!

As the “Tevye” role is prominent in the “Fiddler”, Tevye spends much of the play on stage, narrating, leading the family and town, and singing.

The dad could not get his eyes to be dry. He was quite thankful for the darkness of the theater. He was quite thankful for the darkness of the theater, although he knew that intermission would be coming at some point! Intermission came and, of course, others in the area noticed the dad’s basket case appearance. The dad offered some sort of flimsy excuse about allergies, but everybody knew what was going on.

The dad looked at the mom and he was happy and surprised to see that she had been suffering from the same type of “allergies”!!

(Please come back next week for Part 4)

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Little Boy to Big Fiddler (Part 2)

(Continued from April 9, 2011) ........ A few months later, in the fall of Brady’s junior year of high school, he decided to try out for another play. He was given the part of a crazed and possessed mental patient, a role that he pulled off flawlessly and, again, used it to command the stage during his scenes.

The dad, again with no almost zero theatrical experience of his own, had some trepidation about Brady’s time on stage, as the dad was a tad worried that Brady might forget a line or two. But, it did not happen! Brady nailed the part and audience members gave tremendous kudos to him, even though it was not one of the main parts. Yep, ol’ Brady had found a way to capture the audience through a secondary part by nailing the character of a crazed mental patient!!

Jumping ahead to the spring of Brady’s junior year, he announced that he would be trying out for the next play, “Fiddler on the Roof”. He was hoping for a more prevalent role, but he also knew that there was a pecking order with regard to experience in the thespian troupe. Because of his demanding schedule away from the stage, Brady knew that he would not have time for a major role, but if he could get the part of Lazar Wolf, Mordcha, Rabbi, Avram, Motel, Perchik, or Mendel, he would be happy. But, in the true spirit of a thespian man, he would take whatever role he was assigned. The important part to Brady was just getting in the cast.

Well, on the day that the cast was announced, Brady called his dad to tell him that he did not get a part, but that he had been assigned to the chorus. The dad tried to comfort Brady, as he knew that the news was devastating to his son ………. Then Brady 'fessed up. Brady announced that he had been given the LEAD ROLE of TEVYE, a role that one program described as the following:

Huge part - To dominate show - Big acting & singing role. To look mid 50’s. Larger than life character - strong character. Talks to audience, other characters and God. Village leader. Warmth and sincerity needed - also sadness. Resilient. Audience sees show through him”

The dad nearly jumped through the phone to hug his son. Brady was ecstatic and the dad could not have been more proud of his son. Incidentally, just for extra kicks, Brady also pulled the same stunt on his mom – always the comedic actor!

The dad, with his limited theatrical experience (although the dad had worked in the theater as a musician and he had performed for many years in other professional musical areas), tried to coach Brady on preparation and the techniques that the dad knew to be successful when preparing for something big! Brady listened intently; internalized the plan, and then set out to conquer the role of Tevye!

(Please come back next week for Part 3)

Paul W. Reeves 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Little Boy to Big Fiddler (Part 1)

I am reminded of a touching story between a dad and his youngest son, who shall be called Brady for this story. Over the next four weeks, I want to share a story of love, encouragement, and togetherness, all of which led to big things for Brady. 

The had dad tried to do everything for and with Brady since his birth, including:

Teaching him about life; spending quality and quantity time with him; working in the yard with him; helping him to make the baseball team; later managing his baseball team which gave Brady the confidence to excel as a centerfielder and hitter; teaching him the drums before finding him a better teacher; sharing his sense of humor; monitoring his friendships and behavior; and always trying to serve as his teacher, mentor, and spiritual guide through life are just a few of the ways in which the dad helped Brady get to his high school years.

As it turns out, one of the best things that the dad ever did for Brady was to help to create a home that was constantly filled with music, humor, good moods, and a sense that all was well within the home.

Brady, always the astute observer of the dad, spent years studying his dad, eventually taking on his dad’s mannerisms, speech patterns, thoughts on life, and sense of humor, while also establishing his own identity.

Brady went on to excel in many areas of life, including sports, music, and school work, making the dad proud all along the way. The dad used to perform fairly well in all of the same areas, but it was clear that Brady had far exceeded his dad’s output of years ago.

The dad’s admiration for Brady continued to grow on a daily basis throughout the years. In fact, one could easily say that a mutual admiration society had grown between the two.

Although the dad danced around the house like a fool (no real dancing talent, just a good sense of rhythm and a willingness to frolic in a seemingly foolish manner!), created silly lyrics to existing songs and even created a few new songs with silly lyrics, and acted out various theatrical parts, especially including invented parts with accents from around the world, the dad had never actually been on the theatrical stage (other than performances as Santa Claus in 2nd grade!).

Brady, after studying his dad carefully, began to engage in the same behavior early in his life, later excelling in matching and exceeding his dad’s ability to dance life a fool, sing silly lyrics that he created, and acting out theatrical parts with various worldwide accents! The two made each other laugh for hours at a time!

Even with all of this frivolity as an everyday practice in the house, the dad never even thought about the theater for Brady, nor had Brady ever expressed an interest in a thespian adventure. However, much to his surprise, in the spring of his sophomore year, Brady announced that he would be trying out for the school play – in a thespian group that had always been noted for its excellence. Wow, this would be a daunting task just to get in the play, but Brady was confident that he could pull it off ….. and he did! He was given the part of an eccentric doctor, a character that was perfect for the years-long practiced frivolity in which Brady had engaged for most of his life – and a practice in which Brady had watched his dad engage for his entire life.

Brady pulled off the role with apparent ease, as his appearance on the stage seemed to command the limelight during his scenes. His scenes were few, but the dad was told that Brady seemed to have a knack for getting into character and holding it for entire scenes. The dad wanted to tell the director that Brady had practiced for 16 years for this role, but he managed to keep quiet!

(Please come back next week for Part 2) 

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Kids Gone = Lonely Weekend - Part 3

(Continued from March 26, 2011) ..........  So, "everybody" was right all of those years ago. Your kids will grow up, break away in small and then giant steps, and eventually move out. As such, it is important to spend quality and quantity time with your kids, put aside work and personal pet projects, and well, just give your kids your time for as long as you can.

As I sat alone at the kitchen table for most of the weekend, or with an occasional whippersnapper stopping in to say hello and change clothes, I was met with conflicting emotions.

On the one hand, I was incredibly sad that my kids were grown and fully breaking away, not even needing me to get through their weekend like they use to need me. On the other hand, I was really happy that I had not blown their formative years by staying at work too long, working too much on personal pet projects, and that I had made sure that I was one of the most influential and driving forces in their lives.

So, yes, it felt like a transitional weekend, but a weekend that, when all was said and done, brought happiness because I realized that I had done at least O.K. as their dad.

The great cap to the weekend was when each offspring independently said to me, after having not seen me for most of the weekend, words to the effect that they were glad that I was home; it was great to spend time with me; and that they hope that I can be there all next weekend, too!!! WHAT???

Yes, apparently my mere nearly 24/7 presence in the kitchen during the weekend provided comfort for them, as they knew that their dad was available to come to their rescue if he were to be needed ...... just like he used to every single day when they were little!

In this blog and in other places I have probably said it a few million times by now, but be sure to love your kids with your heart, soul, and all of the time that you can find. You'll be glad that you did it; your kids will be glad; and someday they might even thank you for sitting at the kitchen table all weekend while they explored life outside of the house!

Paul W. Reeves

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kids Gone = Lonely Weekend - Part 2

(Continued from March 19, 2011) ......... As the other two were departing, he told me that he and a few other musicians had planned to get together to work on a few songs. Not a bad idea, I thought, at least he’d still be home. Then he told me that the rehearsal would be at some other person's house!!!!

Well, alrighty again, I rushed home with big plans (of course, it would have been better had I actually shared the plans) and within an hour of arriving home, I was all alone with a couple of cheese-less pieces of pizza remaining! Not at all what I had planned!

Fortunately, I had about 20 hours of work-related tasks to complete during the weekend. So, finding myself all alone with no kids and no spouse, I hauled out the briefcase and got to work at the kitchen table. The whippersnappers arrived home at different times, but it was too late for a game of Scrabble or anything else, so we headed to bed.

On Saturday, with their work schedules, rehearsals, school dance, and studying groups, it became obvious that all four of us would not be in the house at the same time again. Ditto for Sunday!

Wow, I was certainly able to pound away at my work-related tasks all day and most of the night on Saturday and all afternoon on Sunday. We did have some foursome time together on Sunday, but nowhere near the entire weekend that I had envisioned.

So, what does it all mean? Well, many, many years ago, somebody told me that my little tykes would grow up, have activities of their own, and eventually move out of the house! Although we knew it to be true, we figured that we had a whole bunch of years to enjoy our kids and the time together before they began to break away.

Truth be told, we took that advice seriously and we spent as much time with our kids as was possible. Time at home on a daily basis, weekends together, and, of course, vacations together were the norm for us. We put aside many projects during the years to spend quality and quantity time with our kids. For example, a 20-hour work-related project on a weekend? That could have never happened when the kids were little. Now, out of necessity and schedules, it was easy to devote the time to the projects.

Yes, our kids have definitely been breaking away from the household over the past few years, making friends, working, going to college, playing in bands, being involved in school plays, etc. However, it took this particular weekend to have it hit home with me - a full weekend to devote to my kids and ..... NO KIDS WERE AVAILABLE!

(Please come back next Saturday for the final part!)

Paul W. Reeves