Wednesday, January 21, 2009

H.O.F. Dads

This week there was some talk about the baseball Hall Of Fame announcing several new inductees. Amongst them were Ricky Henderson and Jim Rice.
Being a lifelong Red Sox fan..second only to my beloved fightin Phils...I loved watching Jim Rice at the plate. He was a fearsome hitter who worked the count and hit bombs that made your jaw drop.

The only thing that has to do with today's post is the H.O.F. aspect. I was thinking, today, about two dear friends whom I consider "Hall of Fame" fathers. My friends Patrick Berger and Chris O'Neal.
Today I want to give them a little public lovin' and hit on a few points that make them special men. Today we'll look at Chris..tomorrow it's Pat's turn.
Chris O'Neal is a relatively new friend of mine. His son Declan is one of the hundreds of kids I've had the privilege to coach in hockey over the years. Declan is on my very very short list of my favorite kids I ever coached. I loved every one of them, but a handful were so passionate about the game, so willing to work hard at it, and so eager to be better, that they made it so much more enjoyable for me.
Declan will...unless something derails his passion for the a pro player one day. I don't say that lightly because I have such respect for hockey players. But this kid eats drinks and breathes it. He improves exponentially every week.
I am amazed sometimes at the maturity and hockey smarts he possesses. I take full credit! Not really.
Chris and his wife Amy have two other children besides Declan, (and another waiting for them in Gods care) and they could not be more different from each other. Declan is an introspective, constantly self-assessing perfectionist who tends to remain slightly on the quieter side. His brother Liam is a loudly funny, cantankerous, jokester. If Declan is a Thoroughbred, Liam is a Clydesdale. If Declan is Formula 1, Liam is Nascar...or demolition derby. Liam's sense of humor is pure slapstick. Nobody is more fun to sit in the stands with and watch his older brother play, than Liam...depending of course on what he ate recently. The boys have a little sister, Teah. Teah would best be described as a 25 year old first grader. She has the fashion sense of a model. She is precocious and instantly "the star" in almost any situation.
I had to give you the descriptive because what makes Chris a Hall of Famer to me is his innate ability to be exactly what each of his kids needs. I watch in amazement as Chris relates to Liam in a totally different way than he does Declan or Teah or vice versa. Not in a better way, one to the other, but specific to each child's personality. He knows that Liam is a big lunking goofball. If Liam was a cartoon character, he'd be a bear in a Disney cartoon. Big, happy, smiling and lumbering. Chris' interaction with Liam fits his son perfectly.
His interaction with Declan is totally different. Where Liam shows his affection by hurling himself at you or playing a joke on you, Declan is the one who is analyzing his game before he even gets off the ice. He could talk hockey with you until you cried "Uncle". Chris knows this as well. With Liam he roughhouses, with Declan there is more discussion. With Teah...well little girls have a knack for "owning" their daddies, and Chris is no exception. That Chris has the ability to reach into each of his kids' hearts and see the greatness and pull it out, is a tribute to one thing...he knows his kids. Really knows them. He knows Declan's favorite teams, favorite players, numbers, colors, name it. He knows where Liam is in Karate and what each move means. He knows what he dreams of and wishes for. He showers Teah with affection and the self confidence that little girls need at an early age. If a dad gives that to them early on, they grow into adult women not easily taken advantage of by men of questionable character. (that's a nice way to say they don't take any ones crap)
Chris has invested himself in his kids in order to really, deeply know them. They sense this and it means everything to them.
Dads...these are examples of how to do it right! Really right. How well do you know your kids? Are you applying "Basic Fatherhood 101" to all your children? Or are you investing the time it takes to know each one where they are and being the dad each of them need you to be? Divorce makes it harder but more important than ever. We have gaps in our time together so we need to really know our kids so they never get the feeling we are beginning to forget them.
I don't just want to be a good dad..I want to be a Hall of Fame dad!

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