Coaches, Mentors, and Other Parental Stand-Ins

For the next section of posts, I go beyond our tiny four walls and take a look at the many people and organizations who have—for better and worse—played a part in our family story.

To kick things off …

Some of the most fun—and in case you’re wondering, I am being sarcastic—you will ever have as a parent is dealing with the many flavors of folks who take on pseudo-parental roles with your children. This group includes babysitters, coaches, counselors, aunts and uncles, “aunts” and “uncles,” and many others. I would generally not include teachers in this category, since they play a pretty specific role in most kids’ lives. But depending on the teacher/student relationship, they could easily qualify as well.

Some of these parental stand-ins will become your child’s best friends; some will become yours. In a perfect world, at least one or two of them fall into both categories. This is rare—the job description is so different between the two.

Overall, the boys have had some pretty wonderful folks guiding their athletic, musical, and personal pursuits. Because many of these folks have become long-term, integral members of our family life, they will get separate mention in other posts. Here I present a few episodes that stand out. These were maybe not so wonderful—some comical, some a bit less so:

  • We start with the babysitter who took the kids to the corner store to buy, I kid you not, ice cream, candy, cookies, and soda—all in the same afternoon. And I don’t mean one kid got two of those things and one got two others—each kid happily* recounted the story of how he scarfed down ice cream, candy, cookies, and soda, in roughly a 4-hour window. Said babysitter also turned our kitchen into a science lab to make play-dough creations that involved just about every pot and pan we owned, as well as a fair amount of the sugar, salt, flour, food colorings, and other assorted ingredients. All well and good, except this young person apparently assumed our science lab came with a custodian, since all of the above-mentioned items were left out, and dirty, and often dripping, spilled, dusting, or otherwise splattered all over the place. (* Of course they were happy. The sugar high lasted three days.)
  • On a more serious note, there was the director of a boys’ mentoring program who called Daveon a “sissy.” And then, when we met, denied it. Daveon may have his flaws, but when we comes crying down the hall and crawls into my lap—in school, in front of everyone—I’m pretty much going to believe whatever he says is wrong. During the meeting, the program director also said, “You [Joe] are Daveon’s father, and I’m his father, too.” Whoa there, cowboy. I can’t exactly remember the last time you fed the kid, or took him to the emergency room in the middle of the night, or even cleaned up his baby-sitter’s play-dough kitchen mess. But if you ever want to take on any of those tasks, please call me.
  • And finally, the only issue I ever had at the middle school I otherwise loved: The coach who insisted Mark really, really wanted to play basketball, and couldn’t we work something out? Mark was heavily into skating at the time, and doing dual sports was not an option—we’d been there, done that, and unless your idea of a good time is a kid who’s exhausted all the time, stressed because there isn’t enough time to get school work done, and falling apart at home on a regular basis, this wasn’t an experience I was eager to repeat. So Mark, as he did in the past, had to choose, and he chose to continue skating. The coach actually got the school principal involved, who emailed me to see if there was some way that we could work with Mark’s “great interest.” Of course there was: Mark could choose basketball over skating. He did not. The punch line, of course, is that the first thing Mark said to me was, “I don’t really want to do basketball anyway. The coach just keeps pressuring me.” Because, you know, nothing speaks to “great interest” like the push from otherwise caring adults.

Next: Other NT Families

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