The Boys & Their Hobbies

My two sons are very different creatures.

JJ fits the traditional masculine mold. He plays rough, grunts and growls, and will eat anything. His interests range from any sport played with a ball to any vehicle with an engine in it (the louder the better). He like comic books, action movies, and stories about monsters. When someone says, "he's all boy," they could be talking about JJ.

Christian does his own thing. Wicked smart and wildly creative. He is a voracious reader and a dreamer of big ideas. He can explain the uncertainty principle, the basics of string theory, the laws of physics, and the intricacies of a black hole. But the unspoken rules of social interaction are foreign concepts. The only reason he demonstrates any interest in athletics is because other kids like it and Christian just wants to be cool and accepted.

As a parent, it's my job to encourage and support their hobbies. If I can help them pursue their dreams, then that is something I should be doing. JJ wants to be an athlete and Christian wants to be a comedian who also writes books.

Of the two, guess which one I am more adequately prepared to lead into their goals.

When I was a kid, my brother was Sporty Spice. Aaron's first love was basketball but he was willing to try most other sports. As an adult, he enters more fantasy leagues than I can count. And his son (my nephew) is a terrific pitcher for their local baseball team.

I landed on the other side of the spectrum. I was the kid more into art and theater and design. I would have rather been on a stage than at home plate. I more comfortable in a rehearsal than a huddle. I would have preferred memorizing scripts than offensive plays. By the time I graduated high school I could deliver a mean soliloquy but I could hardly shoot a free throw.

Christian's goal this summer is to write a book. And he wants to write it with me. When school starts, he wants to join the drama club. Those activities are in my wheelhouse. I can help him with all of the above.

But I get a little lost with JJ. Sure, I could sit on the bleachers and cheer like any other parent. I could passionately point out when a referee makes a bad call like my dad used to do. But I will never possess enough skill or knowledge to coach one of his little league teams. Even worse, I won't ever be the right person to give him tips on how to play better or improve his game.

Of course I will try. Doesn't mean I will be his sportiest teacher, but I will try. Last night, I watched him at baseball practice as he struggled to connect his bat to the ball. It didn't help that the pitching machine was aimed low. Still, JJ seemed to be hesitant in every swing of his bat. Out in the field, he came so close to catching the ball over and over again without ever actually catching it.

There is a part of me that feels a little guilty for not having taught him how to throw, catch, and hit a ball. After all, baseball is America's pastime and such father/son lessons is the epitome of Americana. But I never learned from my dad. An injury prevented him from providing me the same lessons he gave Aaron. Even if he had been physically able, I'm not sure if I would have been interested.

Now, however, with a boy of my own that wants to play every sport in existence, I can't help but feel a little inadequate seeing him struggle yet not knowing what to do to help him increase his skill level.

All things considered though, I can cheer from the sidelines and bleachers and grandstands like a boss. Even if he strikes out every time, nothing beats seeing the grin on my son's face as he stands inside the batter's box.

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