It is time for my annual column where I share Dadisms, those wise, pithy bits of wisdom the dads, and other men in our lives, shared with us as we were growing up. Father’s Day is a time to remember and give thanks not just for our fathers, but for all the men who have made a positive difference in our lives, including grandfathers, uncles, teachers, coaches, clergy, friends, mentors, and brothers. This year I am focusing on Dadisms through the lens of baseball. Even if you are not a baseball fan, or did not play baseball or softball as a child, you will still find universal wisdom in these sayings. So here, in no particular order, are the words of wisdom I regularly heard from my father and the other dads who volunteered to coach my Little League teams through the years.
“Keep your eye on the ball.” This piece of wisdom was shared in an attempt to make a player a better hitter. The wisdom here is all about the importance of being focused. In our work and personal lives, as with baseball, staying focused on what is most important is key.
“Look the ball into your glove.” This is a similar piece of wisdom, but related to being a good fielder. The lesson here is, again, the importance of focus and concentration. Errors are easily made if a fielder is looking to where they are going to throw the ball, rather than focusing on watching the ball land into the glove. The parallel to this in terms of family wellness is the gift we offer another person when we are truly present to them--when our conversation with them is all that matters to us at that moment. We follow their words carefully, just like we follow the ball into the glove, never taking our eyes off of them. We need to avoid making the error of losing track of the ball in the important relationships of our lives, as well as on the field.
“Shake it off.” This is often said either after a tough loss, after making an error, or getting hit by a pitch. This is not only good advice, but it sends a positive, hopeful message. Things don't always go as planned. We all experience defeat and loss on and off the field. These things don't have to define us though. When we are hurting--in life or in baseball-maintaining emotional and spiritual resiliency is the key to recovering and moving on.
“Know what you are going to do with the ball before it's hit to you.” This is great advice in baseball and in life. Applied to baseball, it means know the situation--how many outs there are, what the score is, and how may runners are on base--before the ball is hit to you, so that there will be no hesitation as to what to do if the ball does come to you. Applied to life, it means we need to know our responses to both positive opportunities and potential negative situations before they arise. Parents can teach their children, particularly teens, to practice their responses and be prepared ahead of time for potential negative influences and temptations. This is obviously great advice for adults as well.
“Wait for your pitch.” Patience is the key to making good decisions in all aspects of life, including being a good hitter. Knowing when not to swing at a pitch is as important as knowing when to swing. Take your time and weigh your options when you are going to make any big decision in life.
“Know when and how to sacrifice.” In baseball, executing a good sacrifice involves advancing or scoring another player who is on base at the expense of giving yourself up for an out. This can be done by bunting or by hitting a deep fly ball to the outfield (or even hitting to the right side of the infield, if there is a runner on second). It may look easy, but being able to make good sacrifices on a consistent basis takes years of practice, as many dads know and have done for us.
As you think of your father, or perhaps a grandfather, uncle, coach, teacher, or other important man in your life, you may come up with your own list of helpful words of wisdom. If you have any that are particularly meaningful to you, please share them here on our Living Compass Facebook page. I may very well share them in next year’s Father’s Day column.
As Father's Day approaches, it's an ideal time to pause and remember the men in our lives who knew the importance of watching the ball, planning ahead, bouncing back, being patient, and when and how to sacrifice.
I would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge that I realize Father’s Day can be a difficult day for many people, especially for people who have lost their father recently, and for those who have had a painful relationship with their father. My heart goes out to those of you who are experiencing grief for any reason this Father’s Day.