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  • Dr. Ted Klontz

Reflections on Father's Day 2024

Father’s Day arrived a few days ago and I woke up reflecting on my ‘scorecard’ as a father.  I know there are those who consider such ponderings unhelpful, I am not one of them.

I remember my first year as a young high school varsity baseball coach.  I remember the first game.  50+ years ago.  We were matched against a much larger Lansing, Michigan high school.  Their team was better than ours that day, but their 60+ year old coach was light years better than ours.  Me.  We got whupped pretty good.  Twice on the same day.  We were outplayed, but mostly we were out-coached, and I knew it. 

I resolved then and there to do my best to never let that happen again.  I resolved then and there to never lose another baseball game by making the same mistake(s) twice.  That meant a lot of self-reflection and detailed examination.  A lot of ‘schooling.’  A lot of learning.  I became a good student of the game.    

It might be just my euphoric recall at work here, but I believe I was pretty much able to eventually create a situation where we weren’t outcoached as often, and we didn’t lose games making the same mistakes over and over.  It was my responsibility, and mine alone, to make sure that didn’t happen. 

Over the next dozen years or so, our team had the reputation of overperforming.  Others spoke of our team playing “smart” baseball.  I took pride in that.  I’d like to be able to say that hearing that was more important than winning games: it wasn’t.  But it felt good.  We played smarter and smarter, and made fewer and fewer mistakes. 

So, reflection on what worked and what didn’t served me well in baseball.  I have tried to live the rest of my civilian life the same way.  After a ‘thing” I always reflect on those things that helped them go well, and what didn’t.  Sometimes those involved in those ‘things’ participate in that exercise with me. 

There are so many things about the game of baseball that no one can control, but there are so many more things that can be controlled.  True for the game of baseball, and of life.  Forensic analysis, for me, works.  

For example, we practiced with people playing the role of umpires and making terrible calls.  The ritual we practiced, “Smile, shake your head in disbelief, keep your mouth shut, get over it, and get on with it.”  “Don’t let what you can’t control, control you.”    

So, back to my most recent encounter yesterday with fatherhood.  I woke up, replaying scene by scene those moments when I didn’t do so well.  I know I didn’t do so well.  I winced and felt remorse for each scene, that make up what I see now as my myriads of errors.  Errors of commission and, more important and painful, those errors of omission.  Mistakes I made.  Bad choices.  No choices.  Passivity.  Submission to victimization by others.      

In the middle of this agonizing rumination, a friend asked me to name my most joyful fathering moments.  “I’m not feeling much joy in looking back on my fathering career at the moment.”  It was cool that I was able to say that.  Being a good friend, they did not try to pull me away from those reflections and feelings and towards the positive, but instead simply said, “I’m sorry.”

As the day wore on, without consciously trying, the memories of making the right (often not easy) choices began to appear in my memory.   I was able to recall a good number of incidents where I did do the right thing.  Really important decisions and choices.  Life trajectory choices.  Choices that no one, except for those who were with me when those decisions were made, know about, or even would care about.  Those choices began to feel heavier, in balance, than the mistakes.  

The one thing that was consistent during my ruminations as I was looking back, was knowing, without a doubt that my “fathering” efforts were fueled by good intentions.  My technique too often sucked, but I was trying to do the right thing, whatever that was. 

Looking back, I see today that I was more dedicated to learning how to be a good dad, than I was a premiere baseball coach.  At one point that meant dumping everything I thought I knew about being a good dad and adopting a totally foreign (to me) belief system along with the accompanying, even more foreign behaviors.

Giving up what I thought I knew to be true, about fathering and about kids wasn’t easy, by the way.  I worked with kids.  I was good with kids.  I thought that would and should give me an inside track on being a good Dad.  A great Dad.  But, just like being a great baseball player doesn’t make one a great baseball coach, being a great teacher doesn’t necessarily guarantee great “Dadding” skills.  I was a case in point.

I’m writing this the day after Father’s day.  For me, yesterday was a different kind of “Father’s Day”.  Maybe one of my best.  I’m feeling closer to my kids.  Not because I have talked to them about any of this, but because I have listened to myself about all this. 

Even better, for everyone involved, I am feeling closer to myself. Yinged and Yanged.

There are some things I would like to hear about from them.  Like, what was it like to grow up in the environment they were dumped into.

I’m thinking that it might be a good thing to do about my general history as a human being. 

In my work with people, I am of the belief that whatever they are carrying on the inside deserves good listening too.  I know that doesn’t work for everyone.

As someone close to me recently said, “The windshield is bigger than the rear-view mirror for a reason.”  And the baseball legend, Satchel Paige said, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.”  We all have a philosophy about the value and advisability of reflecting on our past, and it works for us, or we will change it.  

I’m wondering if there are any of you out there who would consider yourself a member of the “Reflectors” team and what such reflections mean for you.  Not just about fathering, or mothering, but life in general.  

2 comentários

B. Dodge Rea
B. Dodge Rea
24 de jun.

Love this, Ted. Someone said to me years ago, "If you think about it, people are either fundamentally oriented toward questions or fundamentally oriented toward answers. Either a good answer never gets in the way of asking a question again, or a good answer finally puts them at ease and they stick with it. Neither is better, and they have different advantages. But people rarely switch sides." I think of you as a great asker of questions, and this kind of introspection is a wonderful example of both the extra work this path requires as well as the results it can offer if you stay with it. As one who leans that direction myself, I appreciate your example.…


21 de jun.

Reflections on being a father- or mom. I have memories where i wince (wish i had made a different choice), regret that i wasn't the mom, wife, friend i wish i had been. What pulls me out of the "regret" is, this question i ask myself: "If i had it do to over, I wish i had done/said ....., and then commit to myself to do/say that thing in the future. I also try every day to forgive myself and others. I believe we are always doing the best we can. If we could do it different, we would. Knowing what I know today, I will do it different.😀

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