By Dom Cioffi
It was supposed to be one of those perfect afternoons: the sun was shining, the temperatures were comfortable, the sky was a piercing blue and devoid of clouds, and I had nothing to do.
My wife had left town with her tennis team for a match so it was just my son and me. He would have been content lounging around staring into his Xbox, but I had other plans (well, actually I had no plans, but I was confident that when I did, there would be no video games involved).
When the time was right, I cornered my son and asked what he was in the mood to do. Of course, his first answer was, “I’m happy just hanging around here doing nothing, Dad,” to which I replied, “Ahhh, that’s never going to happen.”
I then went into a long explanation about how I work all week and when I finally have some free time, I want to take advantage of it. I also added in a few devious comments about getting old and him moving away someday and the two of us not having as much time together.
He saw right through that and immediately called me out. “Dad, don’t get all mushy on me. Let’s just find something to do.”
I threw out a few awesome choices like golfing nine holes, or hitting the golf driving range, or visiting the golf store, or going to the golf course to watch golf in the golf lounge. But, oddly, he balked at all of those.
“How about a trip to the library?” I asked. “Sometimes being around all that information can be inspiring.”
“Are you crazy?” he responded. “Please, anything but that. Anything!”
“Alright, then,” I replied, “why don’t we head up to the ball field for a little practice?” He acquiesced to that suggestion more out of avoiding going to the library than due to any innate desire to practice baseball.
We then gathered up our gear and headed out.
After some toss and catch to warm up, I told my son to head out to third base for some infield work. I then proceeded to hammer him with ground balls for the next fifteen minutes. After a short break we switched to some pitching until I finally told him to grab his helmet and bat so he could hit.
This is his favorite part of our baseball practices – but not for the reason you might think. In order to motivate my son to focus, a couple of years ago I started to place monetary rewards on particular hits. For instance, if he hit one over the fence, I would pay him $5; if he hit the fence in the air, he would receive $3; and if he rolled one up to the fence, he would earn $1 (however, if he popped one up to me in the infield and I caught it, he had to pay me $5).
This approach has worked great and has made our workouts a little more fun and exciting.
On this day, my son was fired up, boasting about how much money he was going to earn. And sure enough, within the first bucket of balls he had already hit two homers, with another six rolled up to the fence (and all of this without one pop-up to me).
Eventually my son skyed one straight up. I watched the ball’s trajectory and started to laugh out loud as I realized it was going to be an easy catch for me – and a costly one for him.
However, as I was about to reach out to grab the ball, I unexpectedly tumbled to the ground. I had misjudged where I was and had tripped over the bucket, sending the baseballs streaming throughout the infield. The resulting collision with the edge of the hard plastic bucket had torn the skin from the top of my shin to near my ankle. Blood gushed from my leg as I laid on the ground, covered in dirt.
My son came rushing up as I was lying there in pain, which made me feel good that he was so concerned. But before I could tell him that I was fine, he was reaching into my glove to see if I had caught the ball (I hadn’t). “Ha!” he yelled. “I owe you nothing!”
This week’s feature, “Mother’s Day,” was a lot like that injury: a painful experience shared with people I really enjoy.
Starring a string of Hollywood A-listers, “Mother’s Day” wanted to be a fun, upbeat romantic comedy but could only muster up a handful of forced laughs. Instead, the majority of this film was one painfully contrived and artificial scene after another.
Do yourself a favor and resist the temptation that is derived from spending time with Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson. I promise that you’ll be so thoroughly disappointed you’ll want your money back.
A deeply disappointing “D-” for “Mother’s Day.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.