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Home Runs and Checkmates

Step into your kids’ world instead of dragging them into yours.

It was a grand day to introduce my son Trent to the magic that is baseball. Clear, blue sky. Groomed infield. I almost wanted to jog out to the mound and see if I could still put a fastball over the plate.

But we arrived late, and the coach directed us to the outfield. The game was actually T-ball — that variation of baseball that theoretically makes it easier for kids to hit the ball. And did I mention that Trent was only 5 at the time?

Don’t force it

Now the average T-ball game is . . . interesting. When the ball is hit, defensive positions are abandoned in favor of a mad scamper toward the ball. And not much of that day’s action made it out to where Trent and I stood. After about 20 minutes, I glanced over and saw him staring at his feet.

“Want to get a milkshake?” I asked.

He grinned. “Yes!”

Later, I took some flak from the other dads. We should have stuck to it, showed some game-time perseverance. Maybe. But I’ve always wanted my two sons to grow up with a love for sports, and I recognized early on that forcing my desires wouldn’t be helpful.

Your child’s world

It’s been a tricky balance over the years. Today, Trent seems naturally built for sports. And he’ll score a touchdown here or there, and I’ll get pretty excited. But neither of my sons is as enthusiastic about sports as I’ve been. They enjoy other things, such as books, drawing and playing chess. Recently, when Trent won his chess club’s championship, he was absolutely fired up! It was the same excitement I would’ve had after winning a football game.

As dads, one of our biggest opportunities is to spend time sharing our lives and passions with our children, whether it’s sports, music or building stuff in the garage. But kids have their own unique personalities, and their developing passions may not be found in Dad’s footsteps. So why not enter the world of your child? Surely we’re not too old to learn something new, especially if it means quality time with our kids.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go brush up on my chess game.

Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family broadcast. His daily column is available at

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