Ball Control

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Indeed. As we scurry to get last minute presents-are we the only ones?-it’s important to keep perspective.

I’ll repeat from a previous post…let’s stay present among the presents.

With all the gifts bestowed and such, I can’t imagine our kids don’t develop a form of ADD.


Cash has 20 plus toys to play with in the Cash cave-and more upstairs.  He will pick something up and it might take a few thoughts to figure out, that’s okay, but when there’s the next shiny object right beside him, why bother?

This overstimulating array of toys needs to be curbed so we’re going to start stocking a lot of them away and then rotate them in.  Granted, more will still come in-Cash’s grandparents will be grandparents and are entitled to some spoiling-but Meghan and I have made a pact to choose quality over quantity when it comes to gifts.

Sometimes when you have little, you treasure it more, and you can learn more about life from it.  I know this firsthand.

On my 11th birthday, my golden one, I received a brand new Spalding NBA basketball.


I took it with me every day to the park in the summer and bounced it a thousand times in my driveway and thousand more times I shot it at the basket above our garage.

I knew that ball well, the worn pores edged with flakes of orange, broken in and faded at the seams…my hands comfortably formed around it as I prepped to flick the wrist follow through and watch it majestically spin and soar right through the net. (Hey, it’s my memory and I like to remember the swishes more than the bricks, okay?!)

That following summer, I brought the ball with me to my dad’s Thursday night softball league game.

The softball diamond was part of a park that had a basketball court, playground, tennis courts and a large field.

Other kids and I would run off and play games, horse, or just shoot around during our dads’ game.  Sorry, dad, but hard for an 11 year old to sit through an entire adult softball game. Besides, we could always pause when one of our dads was at the plate and watch his at-bat from afar.

We’d play right past the end of the game until we were hollered in by one of our parents.

Some of us would gather our shoes-what is it with kids thinking they are faster with their shoes off?-and any other equipment we had brought with us.

One night, I went back to the basketball court to collect my beloved ball where I’d left it but the area was empty.

The light towers around the softball fields cast some big shadows so I sprinted around frantically with extra beats thumping my heart.

I yelled to a few friends to help me look for the ball and as we cased our many steps throughout the night, we didn’t find it. I searched in the panic of a mother looking for her child.

After taking a few laps and stalling my parents calls to get going, I dejectedly walked empty-handed to the car.

“What took you so long? When we call you, we expect you to…where’s your ball?”  I sped through the explanation that “someone had stolen it!”  A cry hung at the edges of my words that vacillated between anger and sadness and despair.

My parents didn’t have much sympathy but talked about responsibility and taking care of your stuff.  Yes, it seems someone “stole” it or maybe took by accident but either way, I was responsible for ensuring my property’s safety and in this case, I failed.

It was a quiet ride home as I imagined who would have taken the ball and what I could have done to not be in this situation-thrown it in the trunk of our car and then gone off and played tag.  Ugh, it seemed so simple now.

I asked my dad if he’d buy me another ball.  He would not. I later asked my mom, hoping for a different answer…and didn’t get it.

“We already bought you a ball. YOU will have to buy your next ball.”  What?! I had, like, no money! How am I gonna buy a cool ball?! Those are like $40, which might as well have been $4000 dollars to a jobless 11 year old.

I scrounged together what I had that next week and came up with $16.  Winter would hit in a few months so I couldn’t wait and spent my life savings on a $14 ball (damn sales tax!).

This bargain ball was a total dud-a brand that neither me or nor my friends had ever heard of. It had a plastic-y, strange shade of orange look and feel. It took terrible, unreasonably erratic bounces off the rim. It was impossible to put any touch on the ball because you couldn’t get a good grip.  I aired these complaints to my parents who shrugged. “Well, that’s what you get when you don’t take care of your stuff.”

I was embarrassed to bring my dumb ball to the park. My friends and I never used it as a game ball and even thought it might be nice to leave it for someone to steal but knew it would stay right where I left it even if I tried.

It was a serious bummer on the rest of my summer!

But, as a parent now, I appreciate that my parents stuck to their guns to teach me responsibility. I’m sure they felt bad for me but also didn’t want to be buying a new ball every other month.

They could have played up the victimhood that summer night…”Oh, that’s awful! Who would take a little boy’s ball?! What kind of world are we living in?!”  But, that type of defeated talk is poisonous for kids to hear. Makes them feel powerless and the world is an evil place.  So be it if that’s what you think but your kid has the opportunity to have a better, more positive outlook on life and why deprive them of that?

My parents put a positive spin on the situation. Take good care of what you can control.

The best way to go is to put your energies into doing things right to attain your desired outcomes.  Sure, life’s seas get rough and you may go off course for awhile.  But don’t let misfortunes and the storms be your guide.  Trust you can always right the ship because your hands are on the wheel…your direction is literally in your hands.

A few months later, at my October birthday, I opened a non-descript square wrapped gift.  A brand new Spalding NBA ball stared at me!

It was the best gift I’d ever received.

A ball wrapped in a lesson…that I can pass on to Cash.