When I was a boy, one of the biggest things my father and I shared was baseball. We would listen to all of the Chicago Cubs games all summer long on the radio, watch many of them on television, and follow the day-to-day standings in the newspaper. I collected baseball cards with a burning passion and actually had a calendar that would count down the days until pitchers and catchers reported to spring training.
Some of my best memories of childhood involve watching baseball with my dad. I remember watching the 1985 World Series with him and my ailing grandfather. I remember sitting on my grandfather’s bed that October, watching the Cardinals and the Royals (two of the closer teams to where I grew up in rural Illinois) play each other.
I remember watching Game One of the 1988 World Series with him and I remember both of us leaping out of our chairs when Kirk Gibson hit his incredibly unexpected home run to end the game.
I remember being really disappointed when the Cubs faltered in the playoffs in 1989.
I remember countless fishing trips and camping trips and car rides and idle days out in the yard or the garden where I would bring along this pocket transistor radio that I had. For some reason, it was exceptionally good at picking up the Cubs games on 720 AM out of Chicago, so it would go everywhere with me.
Part of it was that I enjoyed baseball, of course, but another big part of it is that it was a shared experience with my dad. It was something we could engage in together. We didn’t have a lot of overlapping interests, but baseball was something we could come together for.
When my son was born, I anticipated that we would be doing many of the same things together, as my idea of a father-son relationship was based on what I remembered from the past.
Over the past several years, I’ve picked him up several baseball-related items, including a Cubs jersey and a baseball glove. I’ve watched some baseball games with him and played catch with him in the yard and such.
It took me a while to realize it, but he’s just not that interested in baseball.
Why did it take me a while to see it? For starters, I kept holding onto the past. My idea of how a father and son should bond involved baseball. It was just what we did together, and it was what I naturally expected that I would do together with my son.
In reality, though, baseball is not something we engage in together. We play a lot of games together, particularly board games and card games. Rather than watching a baseball game, we’ll play a game of Old Maid or checkers. We play a lot of soccer out in the yard, but we don’t really engage in watching any sort of expert-level soccer play.
We connect through a lot of things, but baseball just isn’t one of them.
A few months ago, I saw a really nice baseball jersey in a store and I thought about getting it for my son for Christmas. I couldn’t help but see my six year old self going crazy with joy if I received such an item.
Buying that item wouldn’t have been for him, though. It wouldn’t have been a good purchase at all. It would be a gift for the past, and spending money on something that’s long since past just isn’t a good use of that money.
Instead, I got him a Lego board game for Christmas. We’ve spent a lot of hours around the kitchen table assembling the game, playing it, modifying it, and playing it again. It’s something we’ve been able to engage in together.
Perhaps what baseball was (and still is, in some ways) to my father and I is what board games are to my son and I.
Never let the past define the present. If you’re buying things because they’re things that you enjoyed in the past, step back for a moment and ask yourself if they’re really things you’re enjoying now. Are you riding on something you cared much more deeply about years ago?
My son’s connection to baseball is just one example of this. I don’t buy video games any more because, honestly, I don’t play them much at all any more. I play a few casual computer games and that’s about all, so why spend money on video games – something I was passionate about in the past?
It takes reflection to figure out that your life has changed and the things you enjoy have also changed. Spending some time evaluating what you really enjoy right now – and not what you’re enjoying out of nostalgia or a sense of routine – can make an enormous difference in how you spend your money and your time.
Don’t let the past guide what you do today.