All Hands on Deck

Earlier this week I left the office well ahead of my normal quitting time, which is usually long after sunset.   The occasion was my grandson’s performance, at the age of five, in a 25-minute children’s musical at our church.  I almost said that this was his first performance of any kind, but I now recall that he has been in a couple of preschool Christmas pageants, neither of which I could attend because they took place during my office hours.  This week’s event was, however, his first to involve costumes, songs and choreography, and I was curious to see if he would stay in step or march to his own drummer.

I wavered for a moment before setting off for church, because a formidable pile of charts stared accusingly from my desk.   I apologized to them, but noted that I would see them tomorrow and make up for my early departure.  (Indeed, the following evening I kept them company until 10 p.m.)  I have learned many times over the years that I will remember a special event involving my wife / kids / grandchildren long after I’ve forgotten whatever was sitting on my desk at that particular moment.  My decision to watch a stage full of five and six year-olds proved to be no exception.

It was, in a word, a smash.  Zion, my grandson, was focused, knew his songs and moves, and even spoke a couple of lines of dialogue.  The audience of parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends applauded and whooped after each song, especially at the finale.  Hugs and high-fives were exchanged afterwards, along with a couple of Hot Wheels vehicles, since flowers aren’t of great interest to five year-old boys.  Most importantly, he knew we were there. I could see his eyes glance in our direction several times during the presentation, though he didn’t mug, wave or otherwise break his concentration.  But he looked out at that roomful of people and saw several whom he knew from the home team, smiling and clapping and taking pictures.

Zion probably won’t say much in the immediate future about the fact that six adults showed up to watch him, but I have no doubt that this deposit in his memory bank will yield its benefits over time.  I was blessed by being born into a family that (among other things) was good about showing up for things:  piano recitals, little league games, choir concerts, graduations, you name it.  I didn’t think much about this when I was focused on remembering the notes to “The Mosquitoes’ Parade” or trying not to strike out (again).  But their consistent presence at these events sent a clear message:  What you do matters to us.  You’re not an afterthought, or a nuisance.

I’ve been happy to see the value of “all hands on deck” modeled in the NBC series “Parenthood,” now well into its second season.  While I will readily disclaim approval of some of the behavior portrayed on this show, you won’t find better writing or ensemble acting anywhere.  Furthermore, nearly every episode contains 1) at least one extraordinarily well-written and thoughtful interchange between family members, 2) a scene involving an engaging family meal, and 3) someone’s ball game, performance or other event at which everyone in the extended family shows up, with bells on.  It wouldn’t hurt if a few million American parents watched and followed these examples, while taking note of some of the show’s cautionary tales as well.

Nearly thirty years ago, a talented singer/songwriter named Bob Bennett wrote a wonderful tribute to his dad, who understood the importance of showing up.  I’ll leave you with the lyrics to “A Song About Baseball,” which could have been called “A Song About Thoughtful, Intentional Parenting.”   You can hear it at this link:  http://drivebymedia.wordpress.com/2008/04/01/bob-bennett-a-song-about-baseball/.  Grab a cup of coffee (or perhaps a hot dog), and give it a listen.

“A Song About Baseball” by Bob Bennett

Saturdays on the baseball field, and me afraid of the ball;
Just another kid on Camera Day — the Angels still played in L.A. –
I was smiling in living black and white.

Baseball caps and bubblegum – “I think there’s a hole in my glove.”
Three-and-two, life and death; swinging with eyes closed, holding my breath;
I was dying on my way to the bench.

But none of it mattered after the game,
When my father would find me and call out my name –
A soft drink, a snow cone, a candy bar,
A limousine ride in the family car.
He loved me, no matter how I played.
He loved me, no matter how I played.

But none of it mattered after the game,
When my father would find me and call out my name.
Dreaming of glory the next time out,
My father showed me what love is about.
He loved me, no matter how I played.
He loved me, no matter how I played.

But none of it mattered after the game,
When my father would find me and call out my name.

©Paul and Teri Reisser, 2011.

Paul Reisser is a family physician who has been in private practice for more than three decades. He has served as the primary author of Focus on the Family’s Complete Guide to Baby and Child Care and Complete Guide to Family Health, Nutrition and Fitness. Together Paul and his wife Teri have recently written Your Spouse Isn’t the Person You Married.

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2 Comments

  1. Karin Carlson
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Once again, a brilliant piece of writing. A story my dad often told: When he was growing up in an affluent suburb of Chicago during the 30′s-40′s, his father, who was vice president of a large bank, rarely came to watch him play sports. Dad didn’t realize that his father wanted to come, but couldn’t get away from work, and took it as an indication of disinterest. One day, when my dad was playing high school football in the pouring rain, he looked up into the stands and saw his dad sitting there amongst the very sparse crowd. My grandfather had finally realized that his son was more important than work. My dad never failed to cry when he told this story. I can’t wait for my granddaughters to start “performing”…I will be front row center.

  2. Sandy Sanders
    Posted March 28, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    You are both so gifted in so many ways. This piece of writing made me teary for the many of us who performed, but no one came. Now we’ve had chances to do things very differently. A child and now grandchildren who are our hearts. Bravo for this piece! I’m putting it on the bulentin board at the office.

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