7 Ways That Professional Athletes Are Like Toddlers

You wouldn’t think it to look at them considering their sometimes enormous size (sometimes 7 feet tall and/or 350 pound multimillionaires that exhibit insane coordination and athleticism), but our favorite professional baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer players have a ton in common with wee toddlers. How so? Let us count the ways?

1) They all want the damn ball. Almost immediately following his rookie season, former football player, Keyshawn Johnson, stirred quite the controversy when he published an autobiography titled Just Give Me The Damn Ball  in which he called one teammate a “mascot” and complained that his then team, the New York Jets, didn’t throw the ball his way enough. Many sportswriters ripped Johnson for having the gall to make such a demand, especially with just one season under his belt, and the controversy lingered long enough for beloved New York Jet Hall of Famer, Joe Namath, to weigh in by saying Johnson was acting “downright ignorant” (Gerald Eskenazi, New York Times, 1997). Johnson is far from the only professional athletes to believe he or she is the difference maker. Plenty of other ballplayers complain about playing time or get accused of hogging the ball (particularly in basketball). Now toddlers aren’t ignorant, but they sure are ball hogs, and should a bunch of them have a ball you can almost guarantee there will be arguments about not sharing as well as tears and wails. At least they’re too young to write books.


2) They break rules they know they’re not supposed to break. Professional athletes break rules all the time, everything from skipping practice to blatantly injuring another player to taking performance enhancing drugs. Former basketball player Allan Iverson had an infamous press conference in which he constantly used the phrase “We’re talking about practice!” when it leaked to the media that he kept missing mandatory Philadelphia 76er practice. Iverson called himself a “franchise player” meaning, in his mind, that he was above it all including the rules. He kept testing his then coach, Hall-of-Famer, Larry Brown, on the subject. He tested the media. He tested the Philadelphia faithful. Toddlers consistently test their boundaries with parents. They know well enough not to climb on bookcases, but they do it anyway…again and again and again. Athletes receive punishments for rule breaking such as suspensions and fines. Toddlers receive time outs or trips to the “penalty box” just like hockey players commit slashing penalties.

 3) They refuse to accept blame or admit mistakes. How many times have you seen a football player cause an obvious penalty and then get up and act as if the referee were blind or had it in for him? “Me??” “I didn’t do anything!” How many times have you asked your toddler if they smeared Chapstick all over the television only to hear an unabashed “No!” For years cyclist Lance Armstrong denied using steroids despite piles and piles of evidence against him. He even destroyed people’s lives in order to protect his image. One-time superstar baseball player, Alex Rodriguez, followed the same suit and is now banned from the game for one year. Their refusal to accept blame caused them to become social pariahs despite their eventual weak confessions. Meanwhile toddlers break things; hit, kick or bite other kids; and destroy precious items and blame it on either siblings or imaginary creatures. Both professional athletics and toddlerhood are rife with the blame game and constant “I didn’t do its.” While all we can do is sit back and hope our ballplayer heroes stay clean, it’s our job as parents to teach our toddlers that admitting mistakes is ok and accepting blame is a part of life. Americans greatly appreciate apologies. If only our sports heroes understood that.

4) They have a sense of entitlement. As demonstrated above with Keyshawn Johnson and Allan Iverson, many professional athletes are egocentric and believe the world revolves around them. Not only do they feel they’re above us fans, some often feel they’re better than their teammates. I’m sure it’s a combination of the media and fan attention as well as the millions of dollars showered upon them, but athletes act like they rule the world. They also feel above the law as evidenced by hundreds of professional athletes getting arrested for DUIs or worse. Luckily toddlers aren’t going to commit crimes with the exceptions of occasionally unwittingly shoplifting  a candy bar (it’s up to us parents to give it back) or stealing another kid’s property, but they sure are egomaniacal. How dare Mommy or Daddy go to work? How dare we say no to their demands to use a serrated knife by themselves? Unlike athletes who should know better, toddlers are pure id and it’s our job as parents to teach them right from wrong, instruct them on the importance of sharing, and explain why it’s important to keep those candy bars on the rack.

5) They speak of themselves in the 3rd person. Speaking of egocentrism, how often have you heard an athlete say something ridiculous like,”Kobe Bryant needs to figure out what’s best for Kobe Bryant?” It seems like almost every athlete has forgotten “I” and instead goes right for the 3rd person. Toddlers too skip “I” in favor of things like, “Sienna’s toothbrush!” or “Sienna’s hair!” but toddlers can be excused for such self-absorption since we’re repeatedly using our kids’ names in front of them so that they learn who they are and can distinguish themselves from others. Athletes have no such excuse, though you can blame the media which perpetuates this annoyance by asking stupid questions like, “How does Peyton Manning feel about playing for the Denver Broncos?” At least there’s a good reason for toddlers to speak in the 3rd person.

6) Many of them have rituals. Whether it’s Hall-of-Fame baseball player Wade Boggs’ infamous eating of chicken before every game or basketball star, LeBron James’, throwing pre-game chalk-throwing, most athletes attend to some sort of ritual to assure good luck and performance. Baseball infielders go “around the horn” after a strikeout meaning the players toss the ball to each other provided no one’s on base. Basketball players slap each others’ hands after a foul shot. There are so many rituals in sports that it’s impossible to count them all. Some are superstitions. Some are just imbedded in the game’s culture. Toddlers also have rituals, particularly at bedtime. My daughter’s night-night liturgy includes milk; a pink firefly that sprays blue stars across the ceiling; an often unintelligible conversation with a Hedwig puppet (Harry Potter’s owl); Daddy and daughter singing “Rainbow Connection”; Kermit the Frog wishing her goodnight, telling her all her stuffed animal friends will watch over her during the night, and asking for a kiss and a hug; and finally a kiss goodnight and reinforcement of love from Mommy, Daddy or both. The night-night ceremony helps our daughter feel safe. Rituals help athletes feel focused. So long as something crazy like human sacrifice isn’t involved, it’s all good.



7. They like to make up funny dances. I still need to capture some of the hilarious moves my daughter makes to things like “Billie Jean” and the Alf theme music, but football players are known for wonky post-touchdown dances and thankfully you can find Jimmy Fallon’s “Evolution of End Zone Dances” on YouTube. Enjoy!

I’m sure I’m just at the tip of the iceberg. What other ways are professional athletes like toddlers?

“When I First Held You” – Book Review


Have you bought a Father’s Day gift for that special dad in your life yet? No? Good. Because I have a great suggestion. When I First Held You, an anthology of 22 personal essays from contemporary male writers such as Dennis Lehane and Andre Dubus III is a triumphant collection that digs deep into what it means to be a father.

Edited by Brian Gresko, the book shakes you with incredibly honest accounts of fatherhood guilt and frustration, child health crises, horrifying feelings of failure (something I especially relate to), renewed faith in a higher power, the effect of divorce on a child, etc. And there’s humor, of course. Lots of vomit. Lots of poop. Lots of crying. It’s a book that as Gresko writes, helps “inspire you to be the best parents you’re capable of being, knowing that you’ll never be as good as you want to be.” And it sure does.

I’m a full-time stay-at-home father batting depression and anxiety and as much as I love my 2-year-old daughter, I too often succumb to panic attacks and oppressive pits of despair because I didn’t do something right for my child, because I got angry and yelled, because I have trouble believing that I’m providing my daughter with life filled with learning and wonder and joy. I beat myself up. I call myself a failure. This book filled with wonderful narratives help you see that the struggles and beauty that come with parenting are universal. I’m not the only one feeling these things. I need to forgive myself for my parenting mistakes and appreciate my daughter’s utter glee at seeing bubbles. Because that’s special and it won’t last forever.

Some of my favorite passages:

“When you watch your kids begin to grow up, you cannot help but feel your impermanence more acutely; you cannot help but see how you are one link in a very long chain of parents and children, and that the best thing you have ever done and ever will do is to extend that chain, to be a part of something greater than yourself. That’s really what it means to be a father.” – Anthony Doerr

“In the stillness I move between the two beds…The silence of the room is like the silence of a photograph. Here the girls are fixed, they lie quietly outside of time…The girls might stir or murmur, but they don’t say a word. Not one word. I lean down toward each girl in turn to listen to what she does not say. How conspicuous, how marvelous is their silence! Because during the daylight hours, while awake and in our house or cars or backyard, these extraordinary girls, these two sources of wonder and light, almost never shut their mouths.” – Chris Bachelder (emphasis not added)

“My father loved to play. He still loves to play. How lucky are the children whose fathers genuinely love playing with them! I have been one of those children, and so it saddens me greatly that I have never been, and likely will never be, one of those fathers.” – Bruce Marchart (emphasis not added)

What a wonderful compendium of darkness and light, sadness and jubilation, and all around gorgeous writing is When I First Held You. Delve into these stories. Soak them in. Learn from them. Feel them. Because as a father, they represent you. They might not exactly mirror your personal tale, but the reflection is true and real and gorgeous.

And while When I First Held You is about the trials, tribulations and discoveries of fatherhood, it’s a book that any parent can enjoy, especially one that is a fan of great writing. Included in the book are the following writers:

Andre Aciman, Chris Bachelder, David Bezmogis, Justin Cronin, Peter Ho Davies, Anthony Doerr ,Andre Dubus III, Steve Edwards, Karl Taro Greenfriend, Ben Greenman, Lev Grossman, Dennis Lehane, Bruce Machart, Rick Moody, Stephen O’Connor, Benjamin Percy, Bob Smith, Frederick Reiken, Marco Roth, Matthew Specktor, Garth Stein, Alexi Zentne

When I First Held You is a terrific book that tackles some tough topics, teaches us what it means to be a father in today’s ever-changing world, and delves into the mysteries of parenthood in different writing styles all of which are captivating.

So this Father’s Day, pick up When I First Held You for a dad – any dad. Or actually, just pick one up for yourself or anyone who loves a magical read.

Note: I greatly appreciate Brian Gresko providing me with a review copy of this book


7 Unintentionally Dirty Things I’ve Said to My Kid

The best thing about Easter for us non-Easter-celebrating folk is when it’s over and drugstores slash prices on holiday-related things. Yesterday I stopped by CVS, went through their 75% items, and came home with something I thought my 2-year-old daughter would go bananas over – a yellow plastic cylinder like the base of a flashlight with clear egg-shaped top made to look like a bee. When you press a button, the insides of the egg spin causing lights to flash and the whole thing to buzz and quiver. The toy cost 62 cents or approximately what it cost to make. Sienna squealed with glee and I smiled because I’d made my daughter happy.

Ear!” she shouted, eyes gleaming with fascination at this new sensation tickling her skin. She pressed the buzzing bee to her earlobe. “Nose! Arm! Elbow! Head!”

“Wait until your bedroom’s dark,” I said excitedly. “It’ll light up blue and green and yellow and red! Do you like how it vibrates?” And then my innocently meant words hit me in an entirely differently context. I looked at the shape of the thing. The bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz sound echoed in my ears. Face-palm.

Sienna's Vibrator

Sienna with her new “toy”

To all you new or soon-to-be parents out there, this isn’t an abnormal thing. You’re all going to say something really simple only to do a double take with your partner as it sinks in that you’ve said a simple phrase you’ve happened to associate with Skinemaxian entertainment for the past decade or two. At first you’ll blush. Then you’ll giggle. Soon you and your partner will race to say, “That’s what she/he said!” And finally, as your child gets older and you and your partner try not to laugh at what one of you just said, you’re just going to do the old face-palm. So I present to you the 7 funniest phrases (plus one bonus Q&A that had my wife and I on the floor) I’ve said to of about my daughter that when taken out of context, means something entirely different in the bedroom.:

1) “Do you like how it vibrates?”

See above

2) “Please swallow!” and “Don’t spit! Swallow!”

The first time I said this I literally cringed until I caught my wife’s eye and saw her trying so hard not to laugh. Then I just laughed along and went with it.

3) “The girl was so wet, she was dripping.”

Ah those fluctuating pre-air conditioner spring days when you put your kid down for a nap and discover her all sweaty and disgusting because her room was about 80 degrees.

4) “You need to suck harder.”

Teaching my daughter how to use a straw. My wife beat me to “That’s what he said!”

5) “She’s so cute, I just want to eat her.”

Can’t remember when or why I said it, but does it matter? When those words come out of your mouth, translate into adult connotations, and you realize you’re talking about your daughter? *shiver*

6) “Did you just put that whole thing in your mouth?!”

After Sienna gobbled an entire string cheese without chewing forcing her cheeks to look like she’d been gathering nuts for the winter

7) “Stop playing with your balls!”

Doesn’t really apply to a girl, but it still generated a sideways look between my wife and I. You parents of boys are sure to love saying that one for the first time!


One thing you new and soon-to-be parents might not know is that kids sometimes take time to learn how to use their tongues correctly (face-palm) meaning that the letter L often gives them trouble. Hence, I bring you the following interaction that had my wife and I doubled over with laughter as our daughter stood with such gloriously and proud and pure look on her face:

Me: “Sienna, what do you want for dinner?”

Sienna, pointing at the wall clock: “C*ck”

What can us parents do but cackle?

Important Messages For 2 Important Moms



“Do you want to go wake Mommy?” I asked Sienna with a grin.

The little girl opened her eyes wide and beamed.


It was last weekend and I’d either let Elaine sleep in or she’d taken a nap. Regardless it was time to wake her from dreamland so a little girl could climb a bed like the North Mountain in Frozen and jump into her mother’s arms. I walked down the hall to the bedroom. Sienna ran already calling, “Mommmmy!!! Mommmmmyy!!” Little does she know Elaine can sleep through almost anything, even the stomping down the hall and calls of her daughter.

I turned the knob and Sienna squeezed through the doorway well before I opened the door to allow myself in. She hit the bed at a run.


Elaine awoke dazed and sat up, but when she saw her daughter scaling the bed, she smiled with utter warmth and joy. And that’s when the shrieks and squeals began because, well, Mommy was home and awake and nothing ever tops Mommy being home and awake. Nothing.

Once Sienna reached the top of the bed she jumped fell into Elaine as if her mother were a pile a pillows, not a human being who might suffer broken ribs, poked eyes or, as happened in this case, have the wind slightly knocked out her leading to an “OOMPH!” One day Sienna will know she needs to be more gentle, but not yet. Right now she’s all id, a ball of energy that wants her mommy and nothing was going to stop her.

Elaine and Sienna proceeded to play a game called “Tent” in which Mommy holds her leg straight up under the covers and Sienna does a fake scream and fall and then gets wrapped up in the blanket. She could play this game for hours or days or years. It’s a great test for endurance. Perhaps they should make it a challenge on Survivor. I mostly watched and took everything in because those squeals of pure elation got me thinking about something and once “Tent” was over, Sienna had scrambled off the bed and run down the hall and Elaine had gotten up, I took Elaine gently by the shoulders and said it.

“Did you hear those shrieks and squeals when she saw you?” Did you see how happy she was to see you? That’s because of how much she loves you. It’s NOT because you’re working during the week and she doesn’t see you as much as me. It’s because you’re her Mommy and she loves her mommy. Every day it’s, ‘Mommy?’ and I have to say you’re at work. The girl worships you. She adores you. You’re her Mommy and even if you were home all day, she’d still shriek and squeal when she sees you. You’re that special to her.”

Elaine’s eyes watered and she thanked me because yes, she does think she’s failing as a mom (she’s not…not by a long shot) and yes she does feel guilty that she’s not home enough and that Sienna maybe, just maybe, loves me more than her (so far from the truth!). Elaine is a wonderful mom, an amazing mom who can invent a silly game like “Tent” and play it over and over even if it’s starting to hurt her hip. She thinks about Sienna constantly. She thinks that Sienna’s existence and beauty and sweet nature proves that a higher power exists. And only an incredible mother would do and think such things. Elaine is just that and Sienna and I are both extraordinarily lucky to have her in our lives.

Sienna & Grandma on Sienna's 2nd birthday

Sienna & Grandma on Sienna’s 2nd birthday

My mom doesn’t like to be photographed. It must be in the genes because I don’t like to be photographed either and unfortunately it means I couldn’t find a nice picture of the two of us on my computer when I decided to write this blog an hour ago in honor of Mother’s Day. So I guess you’ll have to deal with a great pic of Grandma Lynne and Sienna and why not? She’s a terrific grandmother – kind, generous, tolerant, stern when she needs to be. She’s such a wonderful grandmother that Sienna asks to see her almost daily. Lucky for her, Grandma works across the street. Unlucky for her, Daddy has issues he needs to deal with about going outside, but he’s working on them.

Daddy’s got a lot of issues that stem from many things in his past, but none of that’s important right now because I want to talk about how far my mom’s come in learning how to deal with a child suffering depression and anxiety, how much she’s been there for me, how she never stops believing in me or fighting for me even when I sort of take things out on her (we do tend to hurt the people we love, unfortunately), and how without her, I doubt I’d be as kind or generous or tolerant or stern when I need to be as I am. She’s taught me so much these past 2+ years when it comes to raising Sienna and she’s been there so many times when I’ve broken down and needed help. She gets a text or a phone call about me having an anxiety attack and she runs, not just for my daughter’s sake, but for mine…because she loves me and she’ll do anything for me. She’ll stay there all day playing with Sienna in the living room while I recover in bed if need be.

I know she feels guilty about not protecting me enough when I was younger or maybe pushing me a little too hard. I know that I’m still not able to completely let go of those things – yet – that sometimes they infiltrate my system and try to break and punish me, tell me lies about myself. My mom tells me the truth. She tells me she loves me. She tells me I’m talented and have enormous worth. And even if I can’t accept it at the time, I’m trying to let those words and feelings in.

Mom, you have nothing to feel guilty about. You were a 1st time parent dealing with a child who had and still has a chemical imbalance in his head that was exacerbated by certain things. We know a lot more about depression now today than you ever did when you raising me.

And here’s the real truth. I treasure you. You’ve unconditionally accepted Elaine and love her with all of your heart. You adore Sienna. You cherish me. And I thank you for that. I thank you for everything. I don’t say it near enough. I love you and I treasure you. Because you’re my mommy.

Happy Mother’s Day to my phenomenal wife and devoted mom, both truly special people.



Sienna And The Frightening Fly

Twas the first day of May and Elaine and my mother sat casually feeding Sienna eggplant rollatini in a pizzeria down the block form our apartment when out of nowhere the scariest creature on the planet zoomed by Sienna’s head. No I’m not talking about a rat or a killer bee or a king cobra. No great white shark decided to make a side trip from the ocean to have a slice of pizza. I’m not even talking about that insidious varmint known as Elmo. I’m referring to an ordinary housefly.

It’s amazing what strikes fear into the hearts of toddlers. According to eyewitnesses (Elaine and my mom), Sienna screeched and jumped into Elaine’s lap, clinging to her neck as if it were the last life preserver on the sinking Titanic, and buried her face on her mommy’s shoulder when the fly first buzzed her head.

“It’s just a fly, honey,” Mommy allegedly said. “It’s gone. Nothing to worry about. No more fly.”

Reports say it took some time for Sienna to calm down and release her mommy from that death grip.

“No fly,” said Sienna. “No fly.”

“That’s right,” echoed Elaine. “No fly.”

Then that monstrous beast streaked across the room and Sienna was back in Mommy’s lap, tears streaming, knuckles turning so white as she gripped Elaine that Mommy began to turn blue. Time and again a terrified Sienna would calm down and then hurl herself at Elaine when that fly flew overhead. Even when they reached the safety of the apartment Sienna would occasionally ask to be held while shaking her little head and assuring herself: “No fly. No fly.” This was something I witnessed when I got home and Elaine made me aware of the evening’s events making sure to always spell F-L-Y so as not to upset out daughter. I watched as Sienna peeked her head around the corner, looked at my wife for comfort, asked to be picked up and said, “No fly. No fly.”

When night-night came, Sienna seemed okay. It was Elaine’s night to put her down and our daughter laughed and played under fluorescent blue stars until my wife told her to climb into bed. She fell asleep, but apparently that devilish fly haunted Sienna’s dreams. As we sat on the couch listening over the baby monitor we heard our daughter whimper and then cry out as if a serial killer were after her in her sleep: “Help! Stop! Mommy! Daddy!”

Elaine went in first. She picked a drowsy Sienna up, held her to her chest, sat down in the rocking chair and rocked. But the little girl screamed and squirmed, screamed and squirmed. I went into the darkened bedroom and asked my little girl if she’d like to lie down on the floor with Mommy and Daddy.


I don’t know if she was awake or asleep when she answered, but it doesn’t matter. The three of us lay on the floor, Sienna between Elaine and myself. She sucked her thumb. She held her blanket. She fidgeted and fussed. Elaine and I ran our fingers through her hair and stole glances at each other. Finally I decided this was a night Sienna needed us, her parents, even more than ever. She needed to feel safe. We brought Sienna to our bedroom, placed her head on a pillow, shut off the light and got into bed. It was barely 11 pm so I had to take half a melatonin otherwise I would have lay there staring into the blackness.

I asked Sienna if she’d like me to sing “Rainbow Connection” which happens to be her current favorite song (I’m so proud!). She said yes and I dutifully complied, the words flowing over her in the darkness, lulling her to sleep. Little snores escaped her tiny nose. In her sleep she slipped across the pillow and landed with her face in my back. And I loved it. I loved being there for my daughter even if it meant having barely enough room to keep myself on the bed. I lay there feeling warm and important. I lay there feeling like vital father.

It wasn’t an easy night. Fitful sleep for all of us. Sienna periodically moaning, asking for help as that ghastly fly plagued her dreams, Elaine and I waking up at each whimper. According to Elaine, when she got up for work at 5 am, she had to leave a mewling and suffering little girl filling her with heartbreak. By the time Sienna and I awoke around 8 am, all was well with the world, both the actual fly and its nighttime apparition gone from our toddler’s mind. Elaine’s mom came over and she and Sienna had a grand time going for a walk and picking dandelions as Daddy tried to do some work – actually write a blog for the first time in forever as Elsa and Anna say in Frozen which we’ve now watched at least 10 times.

Sienna’s napping now and it’s peaceful. No bad dreams. No flies. The previous night is over but it left me with so many lessons and feelings.

One lesson is obvious: it’s way too early to introduce Sienna to Brundlefly.

The other lesson is that caring for my terrified little girl gave me sense of joy and love I haven’t felt in at least a month due to a depression relapse.

Who knew an ordinary fly could do so much?

What simple things have frightened your little ones so? How did comforting them make you feel?