Last week, Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon and his wife, Christie, gave birth to Theodore Richard Bacon – or “Teddy,” as his friends call him.
That has Bacon thinking about how to raise his boy – and how his father raised him.
Ten years ago, a friend of mine said, “Bacon, one day, you’re going to be a father. And it’s gonna kick you right where it hurts – and you’re gonna deserve it.”
I finally got married at 49, and last week, at 51, we had our first child – which my wife assures me is also our last.
His name is Theodore Richard Bacon, but his friends and associates all call him “Teddy.” He’s healthy, happy most of the time, and looks like a cross between me and Mr. Magoo – heavy on the Magoo.
Even when Christie was pregnant, the idea of being a parent was an abstract concept, until I was holding Teddy in my arms, mesmerized by his face. It’s only at that moment you realize your child is not just a miniature version of you or your wife, but someone completely new to the universe.
So now I’m thinking about how my parents raised us. They loved us, they cared for us, and they provided for us, and they did their best to instill character. But I’m also thinking about what they didn’t do: they didn’t interfere, they stayed out of our way, and let us do our thing.
My sister swam, and my brother and I played hockey. They came to our games, but they never pushed us. That’s probably why sports became one of my great passions – and one of my best bridges to the rest of the world. Through sports, I met most of my friends, and connected with my father. As they said in the movie, City Slickers, when I was in high school, my dad and I couldn’t talk about much, but we could always talk about baseball.
In hindsight, I can see that sports were a means for him to teach me values. When dad praised a batter for a well-placed sacrifice bunt, or a football player for going hard every down, or a golfer for calling a penalty on himself, he was teaching me the fundamental values he admired most. Now I imagine doing the same for Teddy.
Of course, you can learn the same things in the band, the choir or the theater. We’ll support just about anything Teddy’s into, short of sitting at home in the dark playing video games.
But I can’t resist fantasizing about taking Teddy to his first tailgate, and his first Tigers game, and having our first game of catch. I haven’t bought him a mitt yet, but I’ve pulled out mine, and started to oil it.
Even that might be premature. Teddy’s already eight days old, but he still doesn’t seem to have any hobbies to speak of, he doesn’t get any of my jokes, and when he goes to the bathroom, he’s not even in the bathroom. The kid has actually managed to pee on his own face. I didn’t know that was possible.
But I still suspect he’ll be getting into everything soon enough. And that’s why I’m working out again -- not to play hockey with the hotshots, or run my first marathon, but to make sure I can keep up with Teddy for as long as he needs me. The stakes couldn’t be smaller – or bigger.
Teddy’s excellent adventure is just getting started. And so is ours.