What I’m Good At

Isaac in Tee BallIn the 4th or 5th Grade, my teacher made me promise her that I’d never become a teacher when I grew up. Her request wasn’t made out of malice — it wasn’t until High School when I had any teachers who simply didn’t like me, a couple justifiably so — but based on her own experience and out of concern for my future mental well-being. I can’t remember her name, and I don’t remember her specific reasons, but I do recall her as one of a handful of influential elementary school teachers who took a personal interest in me and my education.

When Salomé went into Teaching Fellows almost two years ago, I was initially a little jealous because there was a part of me that always wanted to be a teacher someday, despite my innocent promise years ago. Today, seeing what she’s gone through, how successful she’s been at it and, more importantly, how much she loves doing it, I realize I’d probably be a terrible teacher and, whatever her reasons, my old teacher was right.

When it comes to Isaac and India, I am generally the more patient of the two of us — partly because I don’t spend most of my day around a bunch of kids five days a week, and partly because I’ve always had a higher threshold for stress (to the point where I’ve been accused of everything over the years from being aloof to being a pothead) — but when it comes to homework, especially as Isaac’s 2nd grade workload becomes more time-consuming and more difficult for him, Salomé takes the lead and handles things much, much better than I do.

We tend to balance each other, usually with her being the detail person while I take on the big picture, and for the most part, it works pretty well and I think we do a pretty good job of raising our kids without worrying about them becoming basketcases who’ll blame us for everything wrong in their lives. When they’re adults, at least. I’d kill for a time machine to skip past the teen years, just in case…

Tonight, for example, dealing with fractions, I couldn’t get Isaac to understand the question the way I understood it, while she was able to reframe the question in a way that made sense to him and he got it immediately and moved on to the next one. The same thing happened on Thursday night when she wasn’t home and I nearly lost my mind trying to explain it to him, which made answering the two similar questions that followed even more difficult for him.

What I’m good at is dealing with people and helping them focus on their strengths, and I especially love interacting with kids in fun settings, so the most gratifying forum I’ve ever had for combining those two things was coaching Isaac’s Tee Ball team last season. (Coaching and Teaching are two very different things in my book.) This weekend, the 2008 season kicked off and, even though I now officially need at least three more hours added to each day to get everything I need to do done, I couldn’t be happier.

The draft was on Saturday and I was excited to look over the league’s master roster and see that seven of my kids from the Pee Wee Marlins last year had moved up to the Bantam level — where the score counts and one team will lose — and would be playing with me again. In an unusual turn of events, there were two more volunteer coaches than we needed so I took on one of the new coaches as an assistant, drafted two of the kids we’d eyed during the scouting session, and, because the Mets weren’t available, decided to stick with the Marlins as our team.

Sunday was uniform pickup and I was able to see all but three of the 13 kids on my team (so far), as well as many of their parents, and filled out my assistant coach roster, too. The returning kids are all good ones — and it was surpring to see who had and hadn’t had a growth spurt since last season — and the three new kids were all nice and seemed like they’ll mesh well, so I’m really looking forward to next Saturday’s parade and our first game on Sunday.

Because I can be a bit obsessive about some things, I made up a pre-season edition of the newsletter I’d done sporadically last season, plus I created a new Player Record for each kid (that incorporated the mid-season progress report from last season), and had the parents fill them out instead of getting all of the info over the phone like I did last season. Both will be nice little souveneirs of the season for the parents, and will help me stall the sad realization that this is my last season with this league since we’ll be moving to Jersey in the summer.

Perhaps as a side effect, I spent a ridiculous amount of money in two trips to Modell’s this weekend, replacing Isaac’s glove and cleats; buying him some cold weather Under Armour and a cup (with the funniest support boxer briefs you’ve ever seen); and getting myself a new 1st Baseman’s glove because… well, because I’ve always wanted one and I suspect my days of playing shortstop are probably over. Last season I gave the kids packs of baseball cards after every game (except for the one time I gave them all comic books from a Free Comic Book Day donation courtesy of the guys at Midtown Comics) and lacking a better idea, I’ll probably do that again this season.

Coaching baseball last year was a great experience, and the best part of it was definitely the feedback from the kids and parents who wanted me to return this season. The best feedback was from Isaac himself, who even though I was harder on him at times than I was the other kids (and who I worried I’d end up turning off from baseball because of it) told me one day out of left field that he thought I was a great coach and that he wanted me to coach again this season.

It’s easy to forget in the midst of trying to bring out the best in your own kids and worrying that you might be pushing them too hard that, oftentimes, they end up bringing out the best in you, whether you realize it at the moment or not. With Isaac and India, I think Salomé and I are good parents not so much because we naturally are, but because they’ve made us that way.

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One thought on “What I’m Good At

  1. Awww. I have no doubt that you’re both awesome parents. And, I love that you lift Salome up in the subtlest of ways. Just make sure you tell her in person, too. We girls like that mushy stuff. 😉

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