Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why parenting needs instant replay even more than baseball

I don't follow baseball. It's too slow for me, and I lived too long in Pittsburgh to be able to be a fan.

But I feel for Armando Galarraga, and I think he handled the umpire's bad call with a lot more grace than most professional sports players can come up with over the entire course of their careers. I also think the umpire handled the situation well. It was a close call, he messed up, he apologized. Profusely. I hope he can let it go. I hope they both can. Because (see my last post), it's a game.

Maybe baseball would benefit from instant replay. The technology is there, so use it, right? But, as I already said (and as you already know), it's a slow game. Do you really want to add another hour or two by reviewing the tapes?

I think my own life could benefit from some instant replay technology though, especially since I've become a mother of children with recall . . . because I'm not so convinced their recall is correct. I think if I could review the tapes, show them where they misinterpreted something I said, I could save them a lot of therapy.

Let me tell you a brief story. It's about Mr. Fluffy, my pet rabbit.

When I was about seven, my family lived on a nice piece of property on the outskirts of the city. We had a huge garden, a nice patch of woods, a giant backyard, some apple trees, and a hen house. It was heaven to a kid my age, especially since I was such a tomboy. Back then--in the good old days--parents sent their kids out to play in the morning and then called them back in at dinner time. It was during this time that I remember my mom telling me, "Only boring people are bored." And it's become one of my mantras of parenting and of life in general. I believe it with all my heart.

I loved collecting the eggs those chickens laid. Yes, they pecked the crud out of my hands, but to feel the warmth of that egg and to even smell that barnyard scent that makes some people crave city life? Aahhhh. Heat, humidity, flypaper, straw: man, oh, man the great memories I have based on that little hen house.

But the hens weren't terribly productive, and the black snakes kept busy, and my mom didn't love those chickens nearly as much as I did. So she sold them all for 50 cents a piece.

Then we got rabbits. And I fell in love with a big white one, Mr. Fluffy. Did I play with him? No, I wasn't allowed to take him out of his hutch. In fact, I don't know why I loved him at all. In fact, I don't know whether I even had a name for him until my brother strung him up and skinned him.

Didn't see that coming, did you? Well, neither did I. I was SEVEN. I had no idea that we had those rabbits in order to fatten them up and eat them. I thought they were pets.

But what you think and what you know as a child often have very little to do with reality. See, in my memory, I'm sitting on the hill overlooking one of our apple trees, and my brother Danny is getting Mr. Fluffy ready for dinner--our dinner.

But in that same memory, he's also holding me so I have to watch him.

For years (and I mean until I was in college), I believed that memory. I was so sure Danny had forced me to watch him kill and skin MY pet rabbit. But he couldn't have. Did another sibling hold me? Or was it Danny holding me and Terryl down by that tree? And was someone holding my eyes open? Really? Did I HAVE to watch? Was it Clockwork Orange and a box of toothpicks?

Or was I just curious? And then I got upset and blamed Danny?

Regardless, we had Mr. Fluffy for dinner that night. And, honestly, he tasted pretty good--yep, just like chicken.

Not such a brief story, huh? Instant replay does that to a bad call.

Another story:

I loved drawing as a kid and thought I was pretty good at it. My sister Sandy gave me an art kit--or maybe it was Ginny. See? Even the good memories get messed up. And one day, with that art kit, I spent hours (or what seemed like hours) drawing a duck pond. I took it to show my mother afterward, and she said, "It's good. Not as good as Ginny's art, but it's good."

I gave up drawing. I never took an art class in junior high or high school. I thought for sure I was talentless and would remain so. I thought Ginny would always be better. And I thought my mother crushed my dreams. Does Mom remember it that way? Of course not. She doesn't remember the event at all. But I was 11, and I remember it perfectly. Or not.

Last night, my thirteen-year-old told me that he remembers me offering him $100 when he was eight to hit a home run. He claims that he asked me after the season (during which he had no home runs) why I offered him so much money. He claims I told him, "Because I knew you wouldn't hit one." He went on to say that I offered him $100 to score two goals in a soccer game for the same reason.

The Defense calls me:

1. I remember offering him the money for the soccer game. Only it wasn't $100: it was $50. And I offered it to him not because I thought he wouldn't score two goals but because I thought it would be an incentive for him to play more aggressively. He was a good soccer player and still is. But when he was eight or nine, he just didn't fight for that ball.

2. I NEVER would have told him I offered him $100 for a home run because I thought he wouldn't hit one. NEVER.

But he believes it--with all of his heart, he believes it.

I've tried explaining false memories to him. I've tried telling him about Mr. Fluffy and my failed career as an artist. But he's not listening. And he'll be telling his baseball story to his friends, his wife, and his children. My descendants will view me as a cold and cruel mother who liked to mock her children, enjoyed crushing their dreams, and laughed while they cried.

And there's not a darn thing I can do about it, because parenting doesn't have instant replay. I can't point to the tapes and say, "Look! See? You TOTALLY misheard me!"

Then again, sometimes the calls they miss are the ones I want them to miss. And there's no guarantee they'll handle those calls with the kind of dignity and sportsmanship Armando Gallaraga did. And I probably wouldn't blame them.

Maybe if I paid him that $100, he'd let it go. . . . maybe?


Shankar said...

The question that has to be asked: has your son ever hit a home run? Till then, the amount on offer is moot.

While I'm at it, has he scored twice in a game? And, if so, did you pay up?

Bobbie said...

That was his last year playing baseball. He hated it. And, no, he's never scored twice in a game. He's still not the most aggressive player out there, but he's gotten a little bolder. He enjoys sports, but he doesn't take them too seriously . . . unless you're talking the Steelers.

Maybe my offer of money jinxed him. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe me offering that money made him think I had no faith in him, and now he believes I said so. Ah, well . . . I'm still learning.

Ron said...

I think you should offer to bake him a batch of cookies. Those cookies could bring peace in the mideast (assuming they have cold milk).

Ron said...

I took a different approach. I offered $1 each time he swung at a pitch, regardless of the outcome.

Sometimes its better to reward inputs than outputs.

Bobbie said...

Yeah, Ron, but he doesn't remember the dollar-a-swing offer. Goes to show that smaller is sometimes better.I tried too hard.

Mendy said...

Oh Mr. Fluffy! This only reminds me that one of my in laws got a rabbit, with the intention of eating it, but let the kids name it and got it a leash for walks, and took pictures with it... and I was slightly aghast at it all. This was just last year. So this isn't relevant to your post, but it's all I can think about right now.

Bobbie said...

And DID they eat it? My parents never intended for us kids to get attached. And Mr. Fluffy was the only rabbit we ever ate, because my mother couldn't stand how much it upset us. She sold them off pretty quickly after that and we got goats next, as well as the beelzebub of sheep.

Dean said...

Nice A Clockwork Orange reference.