On The Silly Side by Jimmy Del Ponte
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
One of my new years resolutions was to set lower goals for myself - so far, so good - but it got me thinking: “what about my kids? I hope they don't set low goals for themselves.” Okay, so I sort of said what I said for comic content - plus my kids don't read this column. They wouldn't read it unless it was presented on “Your Space” or “My Tube” or whatever it is - in a very condensed version. Perhaps if it was scrolled beneath an episode of Spongebob they would take a quick glance at it.
As their father, I want their goals to be high, but not ridiculously un-reachable. I am not the type of parent that pushes my kids into stuff like sports or too many extra-curricular activities - try it, hate it and then move on. You wont hear me putting up an argument.
When I was a kid my Dad brought me to Little League try-outs at Trum field. - I went out in the field, someone hit the ball to me, I stuck my glove up and closed my eyes. The ball fell six feet from me and my Dad said: “okay, that's it, lets go home.” My Little League career never made it past that day. I signed my oldest kid up for soccer when he was six years old - he hated it and quit and I didn't put up too much of a fight because I hated it too. Too much standing around at Tufts field freezing while kids ran back and forth kicking a ball. Then both boys played little league baseball for a year - shoddy politics within that system forced us to quit that too (yes, I can find an excuse anywhere).
Happily, Somerville Little League is now running like a well-oiled machine thanks to Joe Janeiro, so we may throw our gloves back into the field (assuming I don't have to exert myself too much). Hey - I bought them new gloves and a bag of balls and we were out there practicing at the end of the summer, so I did make some effort. To be honest, if they decide not to go for it, that's fine with me - they have their music - or as I like to call it, “my retirement program.” When they become rich musicians they can stick me in a nice, upscale old age home in Florida.
You see, my parents may not have encouraged me in sports, but they were there for other stuff. My father was a Scout leader at St Clements Troop 71 and even came to camp with us for a whole week and my mom was a Cub Scout den mother. Mom also wrote a little musical that we performed for the Scout talent show - but she was never a soccer mom. She was however, a Project Star mom. Project Star was a very special federally funded summer theatre arts program that has a special place in many Somerville residents' hearts. She took me to see their 1967 production of West Side Story starring Larry Testa (formerly of Gorham Street). David (Larry's brother) and I loved it so much, we joined up the next year - that show paved the way for my love of the theater - something I have passed on to my kids. I also remember mom playing music in the house and singing all the time. We listened to Tubby The Tuba and mom sang songs from My Fair Lady. She didn't take me to hockey, but she did take me to church.
Dad drove me to my guitar teacher every week and even took lessons with me for a while. He bought himself a guitar from some guy he was having a cocktail with at The Cadillac or The Coronet - either that or it fell off a truck - he took me to music lessons but not to karate or basketball. I was encouraged to learn pop music instead of Pop Warner - but it all worked out.
Today, I have tons of parent friends who spend just about every waking hour shuffling their kids to ballet, to Scouts, to basketball, to cheerleading, etc. - God bless them. I'm always chauffeuring my kids someplace. My boys have been in Children's Theatre productions and have even performed with their friends in a rock band at Redbones. Joe McCain and me were the roadies and moved all our boys' equipment - so it's not a matter of bring a lazy dad, because the kids do plenty. I am always toting a bunch of kids someplace or another - I'll sign the kids up for whatever they want to try and support them the best I can, but if/when they decide to quit, that will be fine with me. - you won't hear me saying: “You started it and you're going to finish it!” - instead, I would say: “Okay, that's it, lets go home.” That's one more episode of The King Of Queens I can watch.
You can email Jimmy with comments directly at firstname.lastname@example.org