Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Parenting--buddy or coach? by Leah St. James

Have you been following the news this week in Major League Baseball? I wouldn’t have been, except that this week’s news had little to do with baseball and much to do with parenting. Adam La Roche, former first baseman for the Chicago White Sox, retired and gave up his $13 million annual salary to spend more time with his son, Drake. 


My first thought was Oh, how nice! 

My second thought was more than a little envious, Geez, how lucky to have that choice. 

Then I started reading more about it and I discovered that it wasn’t the case of a dad who traveled a lot and rarely got to see his son. It was a case of a dad refusing to be separated from his son. 

According to this Washington Post article, it’s common for baseball players to bring their sons into the clubhouse. But La Roche brought his son with him every day. “Drake La Roche was a constant presence at Adam’s side, shagging fly balls during batting practice, remaining in the clubhouse during games, helping the attendants with odd jobs all the while.” They even had adjacent lockers.

So when the team’s executive vice president asked him to cut back on the visits, La Roche claimed a breach of the agreement he had made with the club prior to signing. (In a statement released a few days ago, LaRoche said he was later told not to bring his son at all.) And he walked away from what many would consider a dream job with a salary to match.

Many are lauding his decision as a win for family values.

I’m all for family values, spending time together and sticking up for our principles, but I can’t help but sympathize with the White Sox--at least as far as asking for a cut-back. Maybe they shouldn’t have agreed to that arrangement in the first place. Maybe the visits were just more than they envisioned? I mean, what if every player wanted his son to have an that kind of access? I’m picturing a free-for-all, day-care kind of environment, little boys running wild. (Visions of my son's first-grade birthday party at the mini golf course are haunting me!) The liability issues alone are enough to make an HR person’s hair turn white!

But my concerns are deeper and have nothing to do with business. 

To me, the big issue is about parenting, and from a parental standpoint, I have to disagree with the desire to have your child at work with you, every day, all day. I think that's depriving the child of other valuable life experiences.

To me, a parent’s job isn’t to spend every waking minute with a child. A parent’s job isn’t to be the child’s best buddy. 

A parent’s job is to teach (often by example) to guide, to share core values and to expose a child to the world—the good and the bad. Because there is bad in the world. People get sick. People lose jobs (not by their own choosing). People are victims of crime and cons and natural disaster.

The parent’s job is to help a child understand that while we work hard for a better life and for rainbows at the end of every day, sometimes life doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes an employer gives you news you don't want to hear.

Helping prepare a child to deal with the bad stuff in life is a huge part of a parent’s job. And I can’t help but think that Adam LaRoche just hit a foul ball. In fact, I think he might possibly have just taught his son that when you can’t get your way, pick up your ball and go home. 

I don’t claim to be an expert on parenting—far from it. But hubby and I have raised two sons to adulthood, and so far they seem to be pretty decent men. :-)

While they were with us, growing up, hubby and I didn’t have the luxury of binding them to our sides every waking minute.  They joined activities in and out of school, they met all different people outside our influence and made their friends, some we liked, some we didn't. And as they grew, when they made mistakes as everyone does, I watched with my heart in my throat, wishing I could jump in and make everything right. But they had to figure things out for themselves. 

As hard as it was, as much as I wanted to shelter them and control their environments, I had to let them learn on their own. I had to let them become men. 

So what do you think? Have I missed the point? Am I all wrong on this? 


 Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil, and the power of love. Visit her at her website and on Facebook. Catch her tweeting lines from her works in progress for #1LineWednesday each week.


Diane Burton said...

When I first heard this story, I thought wow, what a great dad to stick to his guns and put family above his (ginormous) salary. Then something struck me. The boy's age. He's 14. Why isn't he in school? If he's with his father all the time, when is he playing with his friends? This doesn't seem natural. I'm all for family time. But kids have to develop a life away from family. Good post, Leah!

Brenda Whiteside said...

I think you nailed it, Leah. It doesn't seem natural to me. 24/7 might be good for an infant but at some point the child needs to start becoming their own person.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Normally what we read in the newspapers and hear on the news is 'only half of the story.' So I often have a hard time judging these stories. We know only what we're allowed to see. I say codependency (parent/kid) is usually a bad thing...if that's what this is...not good.

Jannine Gallant said...

I hadn't heard about this. But if the kid is 14, I agree he should be in school and sports and hanging out with his friends. Most 14-year-olds roll their eyes at the idea of spending time with their parents. I feel LUCKY when my girls want to do something with me! I'd get it if he was two... Uh, let the kid get a life!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Having raised two children of each gender to adult hood, I agree with you, Leah. Especially the part of having haunting memories of birthday parties. My husband and I firmly believe being friends with your kids does them a disservice. Although I do LOVE seeing my children come around to visit, I also LOVE seeing them leave to go off on their own. (That goes for grandkids too ;-)

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Is there a mother in this equation? I bet she feels totally left out. I fear dad has emotionally stunted his son's growth. But fathers and sons are often close if they share the same interests. My son Mike was the coach for Ryan's wrestling squads through elementary and middle school. When Ryan would ask him what he thought of his match, Mike would counter with how do you want me to answer your question? As your dad or as Mike, your coach? Because you'll get two different answers. Ryan would tilt his head and, depending on his emotional need at the time, would give his reply. Mike was offered an assistant coaching position at Ryan's high school. He talked to Ryan about it, asking his opinion. Which do you feel you need the most from here on out? Me as your dad up in the bleachers or me as a coach? Ryan said a dad in the bleachers and Mike was ready to break the ties a little. As a side note, Ryan talked to the wrestling coach at MIT before he told his dad he was wrestling in college. Great post, Leah.

Nightingale said...


MJ Schiller said...

I agree. You have to let children go so that they can build their own coping mechanisms. It's easy to see the smothering as love, but sometimes true love is taking a step back. I'm saying this knowing full well that there have been many times when I've tried to solve my kids' problems for them instead of letting them handle them for themselves. If I had it to do over again, I would start teaching them earlier to be independent. But, no one gave me a manual! ;)

Interesting post, Leah! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Great post Leah!

I agree, it is not a parent's job to be a "buddy" ... tough line to toe sometimes though.

Good luck and God's blessings.

Susan Coryell said...

I would actually go a step farther and recommend that parents expose their kids to daycare early on. It "civilizes" the kids who have no one to share with or play with on a daily basis. It teaches them to work in groups and follow simple directions and to develop a persona of their own away from home. I taught school for 30 years, so my 3 kids learned early on how to survive in daycare. I could not be happier with my adult children now, all of whom have used daycare for their own children.
Nice post!

Kara O'Neal said...

I didn't hear about this until now. And when I read the beginning and saw the subject was his retirement, I thought, "Yes!", because he is an Astro killer and I'm a huge fan of my 'Stros. However, that was a big step he took. I do think it's possible we don't know all the details. Perhaps there is a reason he needs to be with his son often? My parenting style is more like yours, though. I'm not here to be my child's best friend, have him/her think I'm cool, or hover like he/she might implode if something bad happens. I promote independence. Sometimes you may not agree with your boss and that's ok. It is also ok for your boss to implement his rules and enforce them. Great post. Very thought provoking.

Leah St. James said...

Thanks so much to everyone for chiming in. I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt that way about the story. And it's true, I'm sure there are details that haven't made public. I don't want to be too hard on the guy when his motives (from what I read) are pure. I read that La Roche's intent was to be there for his son, to provide that guidance that I talked about. It just strikes me, as I mentioned, as too much, as depriving him of life's lessons.

There is a wife and another child (a daughter?), and I believe the kids are home schooled so they could travel when the team travels. I think home-schooling is wonderful for certain families. (It wouldn't have worked in mine.) I know many parents who home school make an effort to enroll the kids in outside activities to help their kids socialize and make friends. I don't know if they've done that either.

Anyway, I appreciate everyone sharing their thoughts!

Alicia Dean said...

So sorry I am late. And, such an awesome post. I agree with you one hundred percent. It's ridiculous for him to think he should be able to have his son with him non-stop. And, as far as walking away from all that money, it doesn't make him a hero. He's earned enough already to never have to worry about money. But, as you said, it does teach his son if you can't get your way, you take your ball and go home. Besides the parenting side of it, which all of you have covered quite well, as Leah said, if everyone on the team had their kids with them, the place would be overrun with children. And, that is NO place for kids. At least not on a regular basis. If I'm guessing correctly, and I think I am, the reason his son wants to spend all his time with him is because he's a major league baseball player. Now, he's just an out of work dad. The kid might not think he's so cool now. :) And, if he still wants to hang out with him non-stop, the kid's got some problems. Thanks for an awesome post!

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, Ally! I wouldn't want my kids with me that much at my job. It's just weird! :-)