Baseball and Parenting

Cristian not quite grasping the concept of running the bases.

I’m a simple man with simple tastes.  Those who know me will say I love photography, running, a good cup of coffee, Esther, Cristian, and typewriters.  You can add a sense of humor that’s either funny or annoying, depending on who you’re taking to.  If they really know me well, they will also say, warm beer, the Hallmark Channel, college basketball, and winter are not my thing.

The three months between Super Bowl Sunday and the new baseball season are a sad time.  The excitement of March Madness and filling out brackets is lost on me.  After a cold winter one phrase gives me hope, pitchers and catchers report on February 14th.  Some have Punxsutawney Phil, but for me the start of Spring Training lets me know warm weather is coming soon.

Cristian and I at a Father’s Day game

I approach the beginning of a new baseball season with the same excitement of a young child waiting for Santa  Claus on Christmas morning.  Then again the 2019 season starts on March 28th, that’s like putting up Christmas displays on Labor Day Weekend.   My better half and I have taken Cristian to several games since he was a baby, and already have tickets to our first game this season.  I look forward to sharing my love of baseball with him as he gets older.

There are some who feel taking a four-year old to a New York Mets game is cruel and inhumane punishment.  I disagree.  As a Mets fan, he’s learning loyalty and you don’t always get everything you want in life at a young age.  If I wanted Cristian growing up with an overdeveloped sense of self entitlement—I’d take him to Yankee games.

I love baseball and since becoming a father, I noticed the similarities between baseball and parenting.  Teamwork and coaching are important components in both.

Baseball players spend the winter working with personal trainers before arriving at Spring Training complexes in Arizona and Florida.  Countless hours are spent on back diamonds learning new skills and refining existing ones.  Time spent fielding grounders, working on a new pitch, or learning a new position could make a difference when it comes to landing the last spot on a 25-man roster.

It’s the same with parenting.  The past few winters, Esther and I spent countless hours keeping Cristian engaged.  We enrolled him in My Gym classes, after school programs, and taking him to several children’s museums.

Last winter we invested in a Leap Frog DVD 3-pack, that paid dividends.  We spent hours watching the adventures of Tad, Leap, and Lilly, again and again and again.  The result, Cristian knows the alphabet backward and forward and he can read.  That’s not to say there weren’t a few dicey moments along the way.

One evening he proudly shared the newest word he learned with me.  It had four letters, started with F and ended in a consonant.  Worried that he may have learned this new word from Daddy, I asked him to repeat it.  Imagine my relief when he repeated it, adding ribbit ribbit.

I always found baseball to be a metaphor for life.  There is a chance for glory and individual accomplishment but you must never lose sight of the fact that you are part of something bigger than yourself.  My playing days are over, but if I raise a child who grows up to be a quality person, I did my job well.

My reaction when I realized the word was frog.
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It’s A Christmas Miracle!

Christmas 2014, after pulling Santa’s finger.

It’s Christmastime once again, my better half’s favorite time of year. She enjoys spreading Christmas cheer to everyone around her whether they are feeling it or not. In that festive spirit, it’s time for the Priegue family’s annual exercise in futility — producing our annual Christmas card.

I’ve written about our annual family tradition and considering our history, set the bar low this year.  Although Cristian has been gotten into the Christmas spirit, telling us what he wanted from Santa weeks ago, and practicing the puppy dog look to get an extra gift or two from Santa, I’ve been here before. My goal was to get through this Christmas season without drinking too much bourbon. Considering how the last few years reminded me of Lucy holding a football for Charlie Brown, in the Peanuts comic strip, I’m glad I bought the big bottle.

We were working without a net this year. Last year, when we used a picture taken from Cristian’s birthday photo shoot for our card. We didn’t have that luxury this year. I made some beautiful images of our son over the past year, but none screamed Christmas. Drawing on our experience as project managers, Esther and I planned this year’s picture with care.

Success after four years and six boilermakers, we acheived our goal.

Esther chose the location and picked the wardrobe.  She found a small mall near home called Atlas Park and picked the slowest time of the day.  We all wore red tops, in case history repeated itself and we had to jump into the picture with Cristian.

I scouted the route from the parking garage to Santa’s workshop with the same attention to detail the Secret Service uses for the presidential motorcade. Planning for all contingencies, we detoured around toy stores, kiddie rides, or anything guaranteed to bring on a tantrum when we walked past it. I also brought a camera and threw a Festivus pole in the car in case were forced to improvise if the Santa picture didn’t go as planned.

Our fifth time was the charm.  Cristian didn’t have his usual deer in the headlights.  I guess seeing countless inflatable Santa throughout our neighborhood prepared him for the real thing.  Crouching down and making silly faces gave us the patented 1000 watt smile we wanted.

Riding a winning streak, we went for the daily double. After leaving Santa’s workshop we headed to Home Depot to pick out our Christmas tree.  And the tradition continues…

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Stop Calling Me The Babysitter, I’m His Father

Cristian running on the Coney Island Boardwalk

It was a Wednesday morning, which meant Cristian and I were off to Coney Island.  We weren’t going to the amusement park although I planned on taking him to Nathan’s for hot dogs.  Once upon a time, I was a Stay at Home Dad who worked part time as a medical biller.  Wednesdays meant delivering documents from a medical clinic in Brooklyn to my company’s office in Queens.

Squeezing Cristian’s stroller through the narrow hallway, we arrived at a small office where three women worked.  The office soon filled with a group of Eastern European women whenever I showed up with the baby.  One of the women turned and said, “How cute, you are babysitting,” in thickly accented English.

Although she was being polite, she didn’t realize she pissed me off.  At least she didn’t think I was Cristian’s grandfather — that happened later when we were playing on the boardwalk.  Yes, it was a memorable Wednesday.

Driving back on the Belt Parkway, I replayed the conversation in my head, again and again.  After the fifth or sixth time I asked myself, “Does she know better?”

The women in the office were similar in age and background to my family members when I was growing up.  The women in my family handled most of the childcare responsibilities, rarely getting help from their husbands.  In those days’ household roles were clearly defined, men were the providers, and women stayed home and cared for the children.  Some women worked, but it was besides their childcare responsibilities.

My male cousins and I were among the first generation sharing parenting responsibilities with their partners.  Times changed and many families need two paychecks to make ends meet.  This shared responsibility confused my aunts and uncles as they watched us feeding and dressing our kids.  The first time they saw my brother giving his daughter a bottle, you would have thought he was explaining nuclear physics.

I was a Stay at Home Dad for the first two years of my son’s life, and it irritated me when people thought I was doing it to help out my wife.  My experience with the woman in the office wasn’t the first time I heard the dreaded B-Word.

Parenting starts when your child is born — it’s what you signed up for.  Couples usually figure this out during pregnancy, those who don’t are in for a rude awakening.  A child needs both parents because raising a child is a team effort.

Cristian is my son — you can’t babysit your child — it’s called parenting.  Someone pays babysitters for their service.  It’s an important service, ask any parent in desperate need of a night out. Whether it‘s the neighbor’s teenaged daughter or an older woman, they are watching your children for a few hours but at some point they go home.

Cristian in Mommy and Me Class

Society has changed since I was growing up, and more parents are sharing parental responsibilities, but a double standard still exists.

A mom taking her kids to soccer practice is doing what’s expected of her, but when a dad does it, he’s babysitting..  With more women establishing themselves in careers and more men as Stay at Home Dads you wouldn’t think the concept was a still a novelty, but it is.

When I was an SAHD, women would offer the clueless dad advice on diaper changes or feedings while standing in the Target checkout aisle.  I almost expected them to ask if my wife knew I was out with the baby.

Although I’m no longer the only dad taking his child to a MyGym class or the playground, we still have a way to go.  My son and I were enrolled in a Mommy and Me class and more than once I’ve had to change his diaper in the back of my SUV because men’s restrooms are not always equipped with changing tables.

Does a double standard still exist?  My brother and discussed it in July at his daughter’s eighteenth birthday party.  To give further insight, my son celebrated his fourth birthday last month.

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Young at Heart or Merely Delusional?

Do I look like his father or grandfather?

I spent my fiftieth birthday sitting in a movie theater on a humid Summer afternoon.  Waiting for the previews to start, I thought about my life, as I sat in air-conditioned comfort On that day, I was an unemployed project manager, preparing to reinvent myself for my next major project — fatherhood.

In addition to the afternoon matinee, Esther and I planned to see another movie later that evening.  I took advantage of the day knowing such opportunities would not exist in the next 60 days.

When Cristian was born four years ago, I was about twenty years older than the average new father. I didn’t feel my age, wasn’t delusional, or trying to trying to shave twenty years off my age to get more Tinder matches.  I just wanted to start a family.

When Esther and I announced we were expecting a child, I heard the phrase fifty is the new forty — a lot. That phrase always made me laugh.  It gave me images of buying a 1968 GTO without checking under the hood, or looking for rust.

Four years later, I’ve reinvented myself again, this time as an academic advisor at a college.  A few weeks ago, Esther and I were discussing our work schedules for the coming week.  My calendar was full of scheduled class visits at the college where I work. I mentioned the next day’s visit was with a younger guy, about my age. I wasn’t expecting the smirk she replied with.

Unlike other 50-Somethings, I don’t need this stuff.

The instructor wasn’t the Central Casting version of a college professor, a bearded white-haired gentleman, wearing a tweed blazer.  He was an active fifty-something, with two kids under six, who runs, hikes and snowboards.

Since that conversation, I wondered, if I’m the fit, active dad, I believe myself to be or just delusional.

I’m aware that I became a father at an age where many friends were sending their kids off to college. They were touring college campuses when I was finding the Baby First Channel and rediscovering Sesame Street.

I’ve always thought of myself as young at heart, with a younger maturity level.  I’m the one watching cartoons with Cristian on weekends.  When Netflix dropped the Minions from rotation, I immediately ordered the blu ray from Amazon.  I’d like to say I did it for him but…

Fifty-four years put some wear and tear on my body. The difference between me and the rusting fifty-year-old muscle car in the garage is, they are gentle miles.  I’m in decent shape, am not taking prescription medication, and don’t need a few cocktails to unwind after work.

Life has a way of creeping up on you. I remember when I looked great for my age. Then I was the guy who got the approving nods when friends checked out my fiancé. These days. I hope they don’t think Cristian’s my grandson.

My motto to this adulting stuff.
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Five More Things I Learned Since Becoming a Parent

My last post was well received, thank you readers and Dad 2.0 Summit, but there was more to write. Sitting down with my notes, I crafted a new post from deleted bullet points – a blog post sequel. Am I being insightful, or shamelessly churning out another post using existing material?  You be the judge.

Your Quality Time Lasts About Two Hours A Night – Remember those quiet evenings when you curled up on the couch with Netflix. Those quiet nights when you caught up on movies you missed in the theatre or watched unviewed programs in your DVR was always quality couple time. Then we had a child. These days our viewing habits revolve around what keeps him entertained. Our couple time doesn’t start until Cristian goes to sleep.

To speed up the process, we use a tag-team approach. While I’m bathing him, my better half is taking out his pajamas and getting the next day’s clothes reedy. Our evening starts once he falls asleep.   That’s if he doesn’t wake up or sneak out his room 20 minutes later. Sometimes we’ll watch a movie, or I’ll write. More often than not, Esther comes downstairs and finds me asleep in my favorite chair with the remote in my hand.

Sometimes You Need A Night Out – Parenting is demanding. Keeping up with schoolwork, playdates, and eight or nine other things is both exhausting. Lazy parenting is the gateway to huge therapy bills in your future.

Parents need a break too. Hobbies and mental health breaks are the best way to avoid sitting in the car chugging exhaust fumes. My better half and I learned to spot when the other needs a break from the little guy. It could be an hour at Starbucks with a book and some coffee. The other parent entertains Cristian with a puzzle or watching Yo Gabba Gabba.

Back when Cristian preferred CNN to Peppa Pig

The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same – Parents in the 70s had a creative method for grabbing an extra hour of sleep on Saturday mornings – Looney Tunes.  They introduced me to eccentric millionaires, smart-assed rabbits, and the defective nature of Acme products.  Forty years later Cristian and I spend Saturday mornings watching his favorite programs over breakfast.  Although he’s not getting exposed to opera, like I did with Kill the Wabbit, they aren’t bad.  More than once, I’ve waited to see how Catboy, Owlette, and Gekko outsmarted Night Ninja.

Beware of Overeager Grandparents Offering to Babysit – I’ve written about our challenges in finding a babysitter while adding to the GDP of a certain Central American country. My better half and I are not fortunate enough to have overeager grandparents stepping up at a moment’s notice. That may not be such a bad thing, have you ever wondered why they are so eager?

I’ve learned overeager grandparents have an ulterior motive – payback. Do you think your parents forgot all the times you skipped curfew dated dodgy types, and took inches off their hairline?  It’s all question of picking your poison, what’s more important, a much-needed a night out or your three-year-old asking for M&Ms before dinner time?

You Will Become Your Parents – Every expectant parent thinks they will be more laid back than their parents were.  That theory goes up in flames once the baby starts walking.  I’ve noticed I’ve adopted some of my dad’s signature moves from the vein popping in his forehead, to going room to room flipping off light switches.  Becoming a father has given me a greater appreciation of how much of a standup guy my dad was.

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