The Favorite Son Saga




The young man to whom his two older, beautiful sisters affectionately refer as "Jones," "Boss," "Pablo," "Little Man," "Brother," and even, "The Favorite Son," (he's my only son), always has interesting, entertaining, or even just mind-boggling things to say.  Folks who are know me personally also know that I have countless great The Favorite Son stories.

Check back regularly for his latest innocent adages, mischievous malapropisms, brutal and lovable honesty!


Intangibles

Not surprisingly, The Favorite Son (TFS) loves baseball. (Ahem, The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball.) Like his Ol' Man, TFS is a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, hacking scandal notwithstanding. His favorite player is Cardinals' centerfielder John Jay. I've coached or managed his Warwick Little League baseball teams, now, for the past six years beginning when TFS was a five year old tee-baller. Ironically, this year, his team was the Cardinals.


The TFS probably had his best season, which just ended last week. He's a contact hitter who whose on-base percentage was about .800. For non-baseball fans, that's pretty good even for Little League. He's a great base runner who stole a shocking number of bases and scored a bundle of runs. At one point, he reached base and scored in 11 consecutive at-bats and, in a playoff game, he scored three runs in a 6 - 5 extra innings win. An above average fielder, he can play just about any position. More importantly, he's a smart player. For an 11 year old, he has a developed sense of how the game is played. Baseball people refer to that ability as, "Intangibles."

Last week, TFS was invited to try-out for Warwick Little League's U-11 travel team along with about 27 other players. The roster would consist of 14 players. The try-out was very well run by some very good baseball coach/dads, one of whom is a former professional player, and another who's probably the best little league coach I know. TFS was poised, showed off his speed, flashed a little leather, and, being the contact hitter he is, made contact at the plate. Frankly, I was very impressed with the baseball talent in Warwick, New York.

TFS was very excited about playing on the team. Every day for the next few days, he asked, "Did they announce the team yet, Dad?" Then, early last Sunday afternoon, one of the other Cardinals coaches, Dan Callaghan, called me and said, "They posted the roster today. (TFS) didn't make it."

I had to drive The Second Beautiful Daughter to work at Bellvale Farms Creamery, where I thought I could break the news to TFS over some homemade ice cream and a great view of the Warwick Valley. We weren't in the car for two minutes, though, when he asked, "Dad, did they announce the team yet?"

I've learned that the best way to give bad news is directly. I responded, "Yeah, Coach Dan called me just before we left. You didn't make the team. I'm sorry, Buddy."

You know, raising children without a partner is no mean feat. I regularly second guess my parenting decisions and my approach to the wide variety of situations. It's no fun not having a partner to talk and share in the responsibility of raising kids. Occasionally, however, I realize that I'd gotten a one thing or another right.

Contact.
After he heard the news, I could see in the rear view mirror the disappointment on his face. Tears welled  in his eyes. He asked, "Do you know who made the team?"

I named a few names, all very good players.

"Did Johnny/Billy/Timmy/Tommy make it?"

"I don't know," I answered.

"Do you think I can play on another team, Dad?

"Yeah, maybe. Let's try to find one," I said.

Then, after a long and thoughtful pause, TFS asked, "Dad, after ice cream, can we practice?"

"Yes," I replied.

On a warm New York Sunday afternoon in June, I drove to the Veterans Memorial Park. For 90 minutes, TFS hit live-arm balls in one of the tunnels, fielded grounders, and shagged flies with his dad.

Intangibles.


First Broken Heart


So, there was a little girl with whom The Favorite Son, who by now know as TFS, had gone to kindergarten. Let's call her "Sallie." I'd volunteered weekly at TFS's elementary school and I knew the little girl a little and had a tertiary, but friendly relationship with Sallie's mom. As years passed, TFS developed a very sweet and innocent friendship with Sallie. Even TFS and Sallie weren't always in the same class, they often played together and even had lunch together sometimes.

Fast forward to 2015, Sallie's parents are divorcing and Sallie and her mother are moving out of state. When TFS heard about it, he was heartbroken. He asked, "Dad, Sallie's moving to ________, and tomorrow's her last day."

I answered, "You mean Sallie from kindergarten?
He said, "Yes."

My heart broke for him because I know how much Sallie meant to him. So, on the Thursday night before Sallie's last day, TFS and I went to the store and bought her a nice and appropriate going away card and a bag of locally made, organic chocolate chip cookies. He even asked me if I'd help him write a personal note in the card, which was something like:

Sallie,

Thanks for being a good friend and good luck in ________.

TFS

He also wrote his phone number and email address in case Sallie wanted to write or call after she'd settled into her new house.

When I suggested that the spelling of the name "Sallie" might not be right, TFS answered, "It is, Dad. That's how she spells it."

The next afternoon, I asked, "So, how did it go with Sallie."


With quivering lip, TFS answered, "I don't like Sallie anymore."

"What happened, Bud?" I asked.

"She said she already had a boyfriend and she threw away the card."

"How 'bout the cookies?" I asked, incredulously.

"She said she was allergic to gluten and gave them away," he answered.

I tried to explain that she might just have been really sad about having to move and didn't know how to react to such a nice thing that he did, but it didn't help much. Inside, though, I was angry that Sallie walked on such a pure heart's beautiful gesture.

TFS bounced back pretty well and, I think, learned a lesson. I'll leave it to you to figure out what that lesson was.


Sometimes, It's Just About the Cat Video

The Boy and The Favorite Cat
Almost every night, the family cat, aka, The Favorite Cat (TFC), sleeps with The Favorite Son. I adopted TFC from the Warwick Valley Human Society when he was a year old a little more than five years ago. My friend, Kerry Lennon, who worked at the Warwick Valley Human Society at the time, and I walked into "the cat room," where literally dozens of homeless cats which play well with others, shared toys, kitty condos, scratching posts, and more, were kept. (The cats who didn't play well together stayed in single occupancy accommodations.) Then, TFC actually chose me. He tried to crawl up my leg and I really had no choice but to take him home.

TFC's not only proven to be a highly effective verminator, but he's also the most mild-tempered and affectionate feline I've ever met. See for yourself.


The Favorite Son is napping on the sofa and being hugged, groomed, woken, and made to laugh by our four-legged family member.

Sometimes, it's just about the cat video. Well, almost. If you want to adopt a cat, call your local Humane Society. If you live in the lower Hudson Valley in New York, call the Warwick Valley Humane Society at 845-986-2473.


Review: A Birder's Guide to Everything

When I refer to some of the details of my personal journey to single fatherhood, I always feel that I need to qualify my comments.

First, yes, I am a single father as the result of the loss of my wife to breast cancer. Second, no, I do not believe I live in the past. Finally, still, the events of my past and how I've responded to them have made me what I am today, so I certainly haven't forgotten the big things.

That said, The Favorite Son and I watched A Birder's Guide to Everything one recent weekend afternoon. I had no idea of the film's subject matter, but since I like birds and since I like Ben Kingsley, I'd recorded it. It turns out that the high school freshmen-or-so protagonist, David (Kodi Smith Mcphee), had lost his mother a year and a half earlier and his father is marrying to his mother's nurse. Not surprisingly, David is more than a little conflicted about these turns of events.



The X-Box Contract

The Favorite Son and a friend hanging out and playing X-Box
Forget about mastery. I have to admit, there have been more than a few things about parenting that it has taken me a long time to even understand. One of those things is just the nearly addictive nature of the new gaming systems and video games.

For The Favorite Son (TFS), I've struggled to strike a balance that I can live with among school work, extra-curricular activities, responsibilities at home, and gaming systems. On one hand, I want TFS to be able to unwind a little or have a way to entertain his friends during "hang-out's." On the other hand, well, when there's been a gaming system available, TFS tends to play it to the exclusion of everything else. That's a problem for me.

Thirteen months ago, I bought the family an X-Box and 12 months ago, I put it away. With TFS having aged and matured another year, I decided to give it another try and recently re-installed the X-Box with a catch. TFS had to sign a contract:


The X-Box Contract

This X-Box Contract, (hereafter, “Agreement”), made on January 11, 2015 between The Favorite Son and Dad relates to the use of the X-Box or any gaming system, (hereafter, “X-Box”), used, located in any room, or connected to any electronic device located in or on the property located at our house.  In consideration for having the X-Box, The Favorite Son understands and agrees:

1)    The X-Box may only be played by The Favorite Son on weekend days, Saturdays or Sundays unless special permission is given only by Dad;
2)    The X-Box may only be played by The Favorite Son on weekend days only if The Favorite Son does his homework and chores during the previous week without incident;
3)    The X-Box may only be played by The Favorite Son on weekend days only if Dad gives permission;
4)    While playing on the X-Box, The Favorite Son will willingly and without incident turn X-Box off and stop playing when asked to do so by Dad;
5)    The Favorite Son understands that X-Box controllers will be stored by Dad when the X-Box is not in use. The Favorite Son will not attempt to locate X-Box controllers;
6)    The Favorite Son understands that failure to comply with Agreement may result in the removal of the X-Box and temporary or permanent removal of X-Box from our house and The Favorite Son’s privileges to use X-Box.
I promise to comply with this Agreement:

_________________________                                _________________________
Dad                                                                              The Favorite Son


After I printed a couple of copies, TFS and I sat down and we started to read it together. He said, "Dad, this sounds silly."

I answered, "This is the kind of agreement that grown-up's make."

When we finished reading it, TFS took the pen, looked pensively out the window, and did not sign the contract. I asked, "Why aren't you signing."

He replied, "I'm thinking about it. Isn't that what grown-up's do?"

"Yes," I reluctantly answered.


*****

It's too early to tell how much benefit The X-Box Contract will be, but I'll write another blog in few weeks to update our progress.


Living With a Cartoon Character

Sometimes, I think I'm living with a cartoon character. This conversation took place, literally, last night.

 


THE FAVORITE SON: (Eating a wedge of mango like Bugs Bunny eats a carrot and walking from the family room to the kitchen for another piece.) You know, sometimes you're almost as good-looking as I do.

ME: (Freshly showered after family gym night and wearing jeans and a long sleeve tee-shirt.) Is now one of those times?

THE FAVORITE SON: (Replacing his mango wedge and returning to the family room and responding in a matter-of-fact tone.) Yes.



Zombie Apocalypse Redux & Driving a Lamborghini

Zombie Clown
It's been a while since I posted an installment of The Favorite Son Saga on The Single Father's Guide Blog. For all of my readers jonesin' for one, here it is.

On the drive home from soccer practice on Monday after I delivered one of his teammates to his home, The (ten year old, zombie-obsessed) Favorite Son began:

THE FAVORITE SON (TFS): I can't wait for the zombie apocalypse.

ME: Oh, yeah? Why?
The Zombie-Obsessed
Favorite Son

TFS: Well, I could drive a car when I'm like, 13.

ME: If the zombie apocalypse happened right now, why couldn't you drive a car right now?

TFS: Yeah. But, how would we get gas with all the power out?

ME: There'd be plenty of gas. We'd have to syphon it out with a hose from other cars.

TFS: You know how to do that?

ME: Yeah. We could do it.

TFS: (Pause, considering the implications.) Could I drive a Lamborgini?

Lamborgini

Can you Get Out of Bed?


The Favorite Son: Against the Current
ME: Can you get out of bed?

THE FAVORITE SON: Yeah. (Not moving.)

ME: I know you didn't take a good shower last night. First, you didn't use the wash cloth and . . . can you get out of bed, please?

THE FAVORITE SON: Yeah. (Not moving.)

ME: And, second, the towel you used to dry off was filthy. That means there was still dirt on you when you finished your . . . can you please get out of bed?

THE FAVORITE SON: I'm waiting until you get off. (Not moving.)

ME: Get off what?

THE FAVORITE SON: I'm waiting until you get off whatever you're talking about.


Where's My Free Baseball?

My last visit to CitiField was three summers ago when a friend and I took her oldest and my three to see the Metropolitans play my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. (For better or for worse, I'm a St. Louisan). In spite of the 'Birds dropping the game in the tenth on an Angel Pagan walk-off home run, it was a memorable night, but perhaps even more memorable for The Favorite Son that I realized.

The Favorite Son, yes, but at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri
While The Favorite Son and I watched the Cardinals and the Yankees on SNY on Memorial Day, he reminded me of a funny story about that night at CitiField. It's a story anyone can appreciate, but I think it's a story best appreciated by a father and a son who share a passion for baseball.

TFS:  Dad? You remember that night when we went to see the Cardinals and Mets?

Me:  Yes.

TFS: Do you remember when the game went to extra innings and you said, "Well, I guess we're gonna get some free baseball?"

Me: Oh, yeah.


What I Hate About Diarrhea

THE FAVORITE SON: Dad, do you know what I hate about diarrhea?

ME: Everything?

THE FAVORITE SON: No. It's really easy to get it out of your bowel. The problem is, when you think you're finished, you're not really finished.


Popular Bobby

To protect the popular, the names have been changed in this serial of "The Favorite Son Saga."

THE FAVORITE SON: Bobby is such a brat.
ME: The "Bobby" in your class?

THE FAVORITE SON: Yeah. He thinks he's the best at everything. He thinks he's the most popular boy in the class.

ME: Really?

THE FAVORITE SON: Yeah.

ME: Well, who is the most popular boy in the class?

THE FAVORITE SON: I am.


I Burp Too Much

An oldie, but a goodie .  .  .

When The Favorite Son was in kindergarten, I stopped into the lunchroom at school one day and I found my son sitting with a very cute little girl, Alison, at an otherwise all boys table.


A few days later when The Favorite Son came home from school I asked him, "Did Alison sit with you again at lunch?" He replied, "No, she doesn't sit with me very much because I burp too much."



Beats Constipation

DAD: What are you doing in my room?

THE FAVORITE SON: Eating an apple.

DAD: (Pause.) I guess that's all right.

THE FAVORITE SON: Yep. Beats having constipation.


Brought to You By The Letter "B"

This installment of The Favorite Son Saga is an oldie, but a goodie.

More a policy than a rule in our family is my belief that we use the actual name of whatever it may be that we're discussing. For example, if my son wanted to know what it was I was using to turn the soil in the garden, I would tell him, "I'm using a shovel." Or, after I boiled pasta for dinner and my daughter wondered what it was I used to drain the water, I'd answer, "That's a colander." At the very least, I reason, using the correct words for things improves vocabulary. I also reason it would discourage potentially embarrassing uses of slang.

My policy also extends to anatomy. At a very early age, all of my children knew where to find their uvulas were, mostly because I like to say, uvula. Considering TFS and I share the same gender, he has known for a long time that the thing that hangs between his legs is called a "penis."

By now, readers of The Favorite Son Saga know that TSF is the curious sort. Shortly after he started kindergarten, he asked me if girls have penises. There is a great deal about the fairer gender that I don't yet understand, but one thing about which I'm certain is that girls don't have penises. I explained that girls have a vagina. Neither of us made any big production of the new word and he accepted this new bit of information in stride.

Later that week, as it happened, I had a previously scheduled conference with TFS's teacher, Sue Bonetti, who is a quality and an experienced teacher. I'd already had established a good relationship with Sue years earlier when she taught The Second Beautiful Daughter's kindergarten class. So, at this meeting I sensed that Sue had something difficult to discuss with me.

"So, how is (TFS) doing?" I asked Sue as I sat down.

"Really good. He's a fun kid, but there's something I think we need to discuss first," Sue cautioned.

"Okay," I answered warily.

Sue began, "As you know, we just started the alphabet. We're learning on the letter B. I had all of the kids on the rug and asked the class if one could tell me a word that started with a B. (TFS's) hand shot straight up and I called on him. He said, 'I know a word that starts with B. Buh-gina!"

I couldn't help but laugh, but I could clearly see that Sue was concerned. I wondered if Sue had imagined that our dinner table talk revolved around a discussion of genitalia. When I explained my "Call-It-By-Name" policy, she was greatly relieved.

So much for discouraging potentially embarrassing uses of slang.


Time Stands Still

THE FAVORITE SON: Dad? Do you know what's weird?

ME: Yes. Yes, I do. (Irony not acknowledged.)

THE FAVORITE SON: It's weird that when it's a school day, times goes really slow. When it's not a school day, times goes really fast.

ME: That is weird.


A Nice Looking Cat


THE FAVORITE SON: Look how nice the cat looks, Dad.

DAD: Why does he look nice?


THE FAVORITE SON: I brushed him.


DAD: With what?


THE FAVORITE SON: Your brush. CLONK! (My hair brush hitting the bottom of the trash can.)




The St. Louis Cardinals and Homework

DAD: Baseball starts tonight!
THE FAVORITE SON: Can we watch the Cardinals?


DAD: Maybe, if you're homework is finished.


 (Pause.)

FAVORITE SON: Can you let me know what the score was?