Parenting lesson # 37: When dealing with curve balls and change-ups, you have to roll with the pitches.


The Washington Nationals have made it to the World Series for the first time ever (arguably). Our region is abuzz with excitement, and even if you don’t care about baseball, hang with me while I compare parenting to the sport.

For example, baseball games can seem long. There can be lulls without anything exciting happening, and then – bam! – something changes the game, for better or for worse. And each batter has his own battle to fight against the pitchers, because batters generally face the starter, then a reliever, and maybe even a third hurler. And within each at-bat, it’s impossible to know whether a pitch will be a ball or a strike, nor if it will be a fastball, curve ball, change-up, slider, or some other pitch I don’t know the name of.

Like baseball, parenting throws these things at us that we don’t expect. But we have to keep coming to the plate. Sometimes, we strike out. Sometimes, we get lucky and get on base because of an error. Sometimes we help a “teammate” score by sacrificing ourselves. And sometimes, we hit it big – a grand slam.

Like baseball, parenting throws things at us we don’t like. But we have to keep coming to the plate.

This week has been a series of at-bats against pitchers who just came up from the minors, so I haven’t been sure what to expect. One of our kids has been sick for nine straight days, every day having a fever above 101. And every day it seemed like things were getting better, but then they worsened again. This child has been home from school for six straight days. We also traveled to Miami in the middle of it all for my brother-in-law’s wedding.

So much of parenting is finding a way in the stress of the moment – facing down the pitcher – to settle in, let go, and take what’s coming at us whether we like it or not. What we sacrifice is not a bunt or a pop fly, but it’s our plans, our desires, and most definitely, our money.

No judgment for anyone who typically buys gourmet food … we all have our things!

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Allow me to introduce exhibit A. This is a $25 key lime pie. The first thought that probably comes to your mind is, “That sounds like a very expensive pie.” It was. And then maybe you wonder, “Who would spend that on a pie?” I would, and did, but wouldn’t under normal circumstances. This pie represents my change-up pitch from yesterday.

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We managed to make a homemade key lime pie on Wednesday in preparation for Greg’s birthday. The sweetened condensed milk looked a little funny but I used it anyway, only to discover later that the two cans expired in 2011 and 2015. So after day eight of dealing with illness, I bought that pie on the way home from urgent care about 9 p.m. so we could have a small family celebration despite everything else. (As a side note, I’m slightly concerned someone’s trying to kill us, because we moved in 2017 and I cleaned everything out of my pantry that was expired. So if it’s you, I’m onto you … )

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Exhibit B is my curveball from today. It is the $40 of Amoxicillin I just bought. “Don’t you have health insurance?” is, I’m guessing, your first question. Yes, I do, but insurance only pays for one prescription of a kind.

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When your sick child gags on and cries about the meds, the pharmacy tries to add flavor to them to make them palatable. When the kid is still nearly vomiting from the flavor, you have a decision to make. The other pharmacy with the pink bubble gum Amoxicillin is 40 yards away, but you’ve already used insurance to fill the barf-inducing prescription. I imagined force-feeding 19 more doses, and the choice seemed obvious when I reminded myself this kid can’t afford to throw up any medicine, let alone calories.

Having kids is costly in every way. But we pay because the thrill of “getting on base” is worth it. Being able to play the game at all is a blessing. Scoring runs, winning games, making the play-offs – these are all analogies for watching the school performances, seeing your kid do something brave, and being blown away by a kind or selfless moment that reminds you why you work so hard in the first place.

Sure, parenting, like baseball, especially at times like these, can be tedious work. But you do the hard stuff for the love of the game.

Someday, the war will be over, and our everyday battles will be a distant memory


Eating peas one at a time took too long. I preferred to get it over with, putting one on each spike of my fork per bite.

Some days my kids don’t eat.  What I mean is not a lot and not what I want them to eat.

I used to see parents out with their kids in restaurants, judging them for allowing them to eat bread, french fries and ice cream for dinner.  Now I’ve been there and done that to keep them quiet.  In my defense, we’ve taken the kids to some nice restaurants where I’ve weighed the unavoidable disapproving looks for malnourishing my children against those glares I would get if a tantrum about anything ensued (like someone using someone else’s crayon, or one or both not wanting to sit in a seat).  Malnourishment wins a lot of the time.  It’s called picking your battles.  Even at home, mealtime can be a mine field.

Me: “You can eat your dinner, or you can not eat your dinner, and then go straight up for a bath, without building a fort and without a popsicle.  It’s your choice.”

Eliza: “Mommy, I don’t want to build a fort.  I don’t want a popsicle.”

Seriously?  I know she’s lying.  But right now, I’m trying to deal with the not eating, so I can’t get into a discussion about whether she’s telling the truth because I have to deal with the consequences of her answer.  I cannot get sidetracked by her efforts to derail me.  So, we take her up for bed and that’s that.  She doesn’t eat.  My 41-inch tall, 31-pound daughter chooses to go without food.  (She might get to move out of her car seat and into a booster by her sixth birthday.)  Zach refuses to eat any part of his dinner about half of the time.  The pediatrician assures me that he must be getting enough in the earlier parts of the day.  But how infuriating it is that he won’t even taste what I’ve cooked!

I remember my childhood.  I remember secretly feeding my veggies to the dogs.  I remember refusing to eat.  I also remember my parents threatening to reheat the food for breakfast if I didn’t eat it right then (and they did).  When I realized they were serious, I started negotiating.  “I’ll eat 3 peas.”  “No, Christine, eat 20 peas.”  “Four.”  “Ten, and that’s final.”  And then I would hold my nose and gag and make all sorts of crazy torture-enduring faces at them while I drank the peas down with milk.  And now?  I actually like peas.  And I enjoy most of the vegetables I didn’t like as a child.  I grew up and had to make a decision about whether I wanted to live a healthy lifestyle or not.

Someday I’m going to look back and see that the truth is, my kids get food.  They get nourishment.  The probably get more calories each day than 80% of the people in this world.  Could they do better?  Sure.  Everyone probably could.  But there are actually kids who don’t have enough food.  And there are actually kids who don’t eat, like they must be intubated to get the nutrition they need.  I saw a news story on it once.  Those are real problems.  What I face is … annoyance and a lack of control.  (Welcome to parenting 101.)

Thus, I’m hopeful that if my kids see Greg and me eat well, they will grow up to eat well.  I hope they one day make good food choices on their own, because at ages 2 and 3, they aren’t capable of it.  And that’s okay.  I have to stop looking at all these obstacles (they don’t eat, they don’t sleep, they fight, they’re defiant) as battles.

Instead, they are opportunities for growth.  I’m here to teach them to make good food choices, and teach them how to behave and have self-control even when they’re tired (hmm, am I capable of that?), and teach them how to value putting others first, and teach them to be agreeable or others won’t want to be their friends.  (And okay, that sometimes, a person is just asking for it and that’s when you slug ’em.)

Someday they will not be children any more.  They will still be mine, but my prime time for parenting will be over.  So I want to get over the random days they don’t eat and realize that this, too, shall pass.  It’s not letting them win the battle, it’s giving up fighting at all.