Friday, August 5, 2016

Chasing Taylor Swift

I am amazed by some of the things I will do for my daughters.
I am a baseball scout and that is a job which often conflicts with raising two young girls. It's not just the travel and work involved, which often limits my time with them. There is almost a mystical divide there. It can sometimes feel like I live in two different universes, and it is funny when they collide. The men's club that can be the world of scouting professional baseball players, and the girls club of hanging and playing with my daughters.
But it wasn't always this way.
Just 10 years ago I was a man who knew little about what it was to have a child, and how much I would prioritize her joy. I had just become a dad, but all I knew of parenting at that time was changing diapers, and walking and rocking my young daughter to sleep. I was still strictly in the man's club.
I remember I was scouting a Los Angeles Dodgers game at Dodger Stadium, and among the scouts in attendance that day was someone with whom I had interacted some over the previous five years or so, but not a lot. I knew him at the time to be the ultimate professional, a quiet, private man focused on doing his job and doing it without fuss or fanfare. But then that changed.
Midway through an otherwise typical game, this scout raised up in his seat and said, "That's Zack Efron over there."
Now, at the time, I am not sure I even knew who Zack Efron was, and I am someone who tends to know my movie stars and celebrities. But, perhaps because I was in my late 30s and my daughter was still so young, I was not part of the Efron era.
Then I watched in amazement as this scout jumped from his seat and ran - or ran as well as one could through a sea of seats, railings and fans - over to a nearby ramp, where he forced his way through a small crowd of gawkers, and leaned over, and took a photo of Efron - or Efron's entourage - with his cell phone.
He then hustled back to his scout seat and went back to work, explaining his unusual behavior simply by saying he "had to get a photo of Zack Efron for his daughters."
I was in shock. "Had to?" "Had to?" Oh, my. What would have happened if he hadn't?
So, fast forward to this past spring. Now I am a father of two young girls, and I know all about the Zack Efrons of the world. For example, I know way more than I ever thought I would about Ross Lynch. Don't know Ross Lynch? Don't have a young daughter, do you?
So I am sitting at an organizational dinner at a fancy restaurant in Florida. I work for a Major League team and this was an informal staff dinner, with about 20 of my colleagues who had been flown in for some meetings. The dinner was pleasure, but it was also business, especially since our bosses, including our new general manager,  were there, and we had a rare chance to spend some quality time with them.
The meal was just ending and I was coming back to the table from the restroom when I heard a couple of my fellow scouts discussing whether or not they thought the woman who had just passed by their table was in fact Taylor Swift. They concluded that it was.
What? Taylor Swift? What? Where? Is she still here? Where did she go? Taylor Swift?
It was happening. Little else in the world mattered to me than the fact that I suddenly, maybe, perhaps had a chance to ... To .. To what? To see Taylor Swift, meet her, get a photo of her, with her?
My thoughts were racing. All I could imagine was the joy it would bring to my daughters if I could return home to them in a few days with a photo of Taylor Swift and me, arm in arm, at a restaurant.
Would not that be the greatest thing that ever happened in their universe? Their dad with Taylor Swift, only the most important, remarkable, talented person in the world.
Wouldn't it?
Well, it did not happen.
Oh, I tried. I asked my colleagues where they had seen her and where she was headed, and where she might be now. And I searched the restaurant and lingered, and made other plans for returning to the hotel where we were all staying, and kept my eye out of for her, and did everything I possibly could to make it happen for as long as I could. But it was not to be. No Taylor Swift.
And now I understood. I was back in Dodger Stadium. I was that guy.
And you know what? I was more than happy to be him.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Too Cute Or Not Too Cute


The youngest of my two daughters is 7 and obsessed with her own cuteness. And I don't know what to do about it.
Some recent examples of her obsession are these:
I once used the word agenda in front of her and she asked me from the back of the car, "What does agenda mean?" When I told her, she proclaimed, "Well, my agenda is being cute."
When her now 11-year old sister (who may be obsessed with her own intelligence, but that is another story) was talking about possibly receiving financial aid from a private school and referring to it as a scholarship, and teasing her sibling that she will never have a similar opportunity, my youngest shot back, "Please, my face is a scholarship I am so cute."
Another time when we were driving, and I heard sirens and I teased her that the police may be coming after her, she responded, "My only crime is being cute."
Troubling, right? Maybe even to the point where it is criminal. 
But also funny, and, well, cute, especially the way she does it.
And one of the problems is she is so damn cute. Of course, most kids are, especially girls, and especially girls around her age. And of course I have zero objectivity on the matter, and I am sure every dad or mom thinks his or her child to be the cutest thing going. But it seems like a disproportionate amount of people find her cute, and use that word to describe her.
Like the gas station attendant who volunteered that she could have the candy bar I was buying her for just a dollar. "Normally, it's two," he said. "But for you it's one, because of that cute face."
Or the time we left a rambling voice mail message together at this limo rental office inquiring about prices, not just for a rental but maybe for purchase (guess whose idea that was) and the still-chuckling owner called back 15 minutes later and said it was the cutest message he has heard in 20 years in the business. He did not offer to reduce his purchase price to a dollar, by the way.
So what is a parent to do? Do I curtail this behavior? Do I tell my daughter she is not cute, or at least not THAT cute? Or somehow explain where she falls on the bell curve of cute-itude. Or just encourage her to, whatever she does, never refer to her own cuteness.
I mean, I may find her act cute but I am sure there are a lot of people who if they witnessed her saying some of these things would think she was in need of an immediate swirly.
I have tried to talk to her about humility and, fortunately, she did not respond by saying something akin to, "Come on, how can I be humble with a face like this?"
But what do I do?
Therapy? Discipline? Ignore it?
Are there whole chapters in parenting books about this?
Cuteness - The Double-Edged Sword.
Cut Out The Cute.
Too Cute For School.
Ok, enough. Now I am trying too hard to be cute.
I will just stop and leave the cute to the cute expert.
And enjoy it as long as it lasts.
Of course, at the height of my concern, when I inquired with my own agenda how long she thought she would remain cute and what she would do if she were not any longer, she did not hesitate to say, "Oh, don't worry - I will be cute forever."

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Daily joy

I am sure most parents will understand what I mean when I say that I have found that once a day my kids do something that makes me happy, and once a day they do something that makes me angry. And once a day they do something that makes me laugh, and once a day they make me want to cry. And they make me frustrated, and proud, and just about every emotion a person can feel. Once a day, or at least once a day. But then there is something they do each day, whether it has been a good day or a bad day, which just amazes me and makes me say, "Man, that's why I love being a parent." Something that makes it all worthwhile, even, and perhaps, especially, on days when you were beginning to wonder.
Today's came at bedtime, when my 7-year old broke into a pretty darn good British accent out of nowhere, and kept it up, even as I asked her where she learned to do that and if she had done it before, and she claimed she had no idea.
Lovely.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The latest

Quote from my daughter to her friend after school, after I opened her water bottle for her:
"That's what my dad is good for, opening things."

Monday, May 18, 2015

Training Wheels

Last week I got to enjoy one of those great moments parents have - the first day my daughter was able to ride a bike on her own. Yes, we took the training wheels off. And we all learned something in the process.
First, it was a great moment. A beautiful day (finally), so the evening presented us an opportunity to break out the bikes. I wasn't sure my 6-year old, Lulu, would be ready to try without the training wheels, especially since her chances to ride have been few and far between over her brief life, but I had a hunch.
So, she did it. We experienced all of the usual stuff: the holding on, the fear, the negotiating, the letting go, the trust, (both ways), the laughter. And the beautiful moment when I got to let her go on her own and watch.
But there were a couple of surprises. As luck would have it, my ex got to see the moment, because it came at exchange time. That was nice.
She also was able to take some video of the moment on her phone. Great again.
But there was a twist in that as this was going on, my eldest daughter, Elizabeth, was, as she usually is of late, buried in her Ipad, and not showing much interest in what was going on. We all kept urging her to watch but she did it only in spurts. Two-second spurts. Quick glances up from Minecraft.
So in the definitive video of Lulu leaving my hold, taking off on her own, and biking up the driveway, you can hear me say, or maybe shout, "Elizabeth!"
I didn't think much of it the time but when I watched the video I realized all of the colors and tone in my voice when I said that one word.
It was part excitement,  and part attention-grabbing - "Look up - this is it - finally." But it was also part admonishment - "Come on, you're missing it. Pay attention."  Part joy and part disappointment.
And later I was disappointed with myself. Was there too much anger and frustration in my tone? Why? Am I a bad parent? How have I let it come to this that my daughter is so addicted to her Ipad that she can't focus on a wonderful moment like this? What other parent/child/sibling dynamics are going on here?
Such is life and such is parenting. It remains the most challenging, beautiful, frustrating and special thing I do.
So I want to know, when will I be able to take the training wheels off?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Welcome

Hi, my name is Kimball Crossley and this is my new blog, devoted to my upcoming children's picture book, When I am with Dad.