Monday, May 16, 2011

Varsity Dad: My Older Kid Turns 5

My older son Gabe turns 5 today. It is impossible not to reflect on the last five years and how it so dramatically changed my life.

Here's a wild thought: Five years ago today, I was into my 4th year of writing the Daily Quickie for

...Well, wait: I was in the hospital on May 16th, so here's the edition I filed the first day back from a brief paternity leave (I don't make a habit of going back and re-reading old Quickie columns, so what I'm struck by when I look at the one from May 24: goddamn, I wrote the hell out of that column every day. /reverie).

Little did I know with that little newborn that I would leave a few months later. Then start blogging here. Then do some consulting (and more blogging, Varsity Dad, along with finishing that awesome screenplay), while coming nominally close to creating my own indie version of a blogging all-star team (others pulled it off, to spectacular effect). Then join Associated Content. Then another kid. Then leave AC and do more consulting, projects and blogging (TimTeblog). Then found and launch Quickish.

Aside from my wife, the constant over the past five years is Gabe, from super-cute infant to yapping (and still-cute) toddler to the brilliant and joyful boy he is today. My wife and I have been beyond lucky.

But for now I'm just going to focus on a sports angle: We had exposed Gabe to spectator sports when he was 3 and a half or so. We took him to the local minor-league baseball and I took him to a college basketball game (and, later, the Knicks). He was kind of interested, but mostly too young to really appreciate it. A big lesson I learned: You just can't -- or shouldn't -- force these things. There's plenty of chances to dress them in team-logo'd T-shirts and jerseys.

But right around this past Selection Sunday, something clicked: He became as obsessed with sports -- the NCAA Tournament, specifically -- as he had previously been about animals or ice cream or doing tricks on his scooter.

He filled out a bracket, then followed the games avidly. He picked Florida to win it all, then jumped on the Butler bandwagon when Butler knocked out the Gators. (An early application of the transitive property of picking up the team that knocks out your team.)

Now he will watch any sports on TV we can find: NASCAR (and funny cars!), Premiership and La Liga soccer on ESPN. Just yesterday, we spent at least 10 minutes watching women's billiards.

But he has been really into the NBA Playoffs. He picks teams to root for based mostly on who happens to be winning the game -- or who won. (Bandwagoning during the playoffs? This makes him fairly typical among sports fans -- certainly among sports media and punditry.)

He wants to know not just who is winning and not even merely by how much, but the precise score, so he can calculate the spread himself. He yelps out from his bedroom "What's the score?" while I am watching games in the living room. And when he rolls out of bed in the morning, his first question usually is: "Who won the game?"

His new obsession with big-time sports is kind of awesome. (By the way, his mom and I are certainly doing our best to encourage participation in sports so he learn good lessons about being active -- I appreciate the secondary effect of a deeper appreciation of the game by playing).

It has allowed Gabe to connect with my wife and me on a new level. We already did all sorts of fun things together -- reading, games, biking, practicing his writing -- but this is so close to what I have spent my lifetime doing professionally (and something my wife and I have invested so much of myself personally) that being able to share it with him and expose him to it is surprisingly meaningful for both kid and parents.

As a parent, it is really hard to take the 10,000-foot view -- there are just too many little details you have to focus on all day, every day that keep you in the moment.

But in a way, that is a great thing, because it allows for extra (and extraordinary) meaning for things as simple and surface-level as "Daddy, what's the score?"

-- D.S.

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