Paris Goodnight: Trying not to pass on those bad traits

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 9, 2022

When I was coming along, “Cat’s in the Cradle” was a song that talked about a father doing things that kept him away from his child as he grew up. And it put the idea in my mind to not put work or the pressures of this world in front of more important things like being around as your children get older.

But as I look back, I wonder if I ended up doing opposite of what the song was saying to do. How many others end up doing things that no matter the goal, it ends up being opposite of what they were trying to do?

In the same vein, I wonder how many kids end up being just like their parents even though they tell themselves they’ll never do such a thing.

I know one of those bad traits that I passed along inadvertently to my youngest was the inability to pull the trigger on a shot during basketball games. I played all through high school, but my fatal flaw on the court was always looking to pass first instead of following one of the keys of the game, which is when you get the ball to look to the basket to see if you can get an open shot. Even if I knew to “look basket” as we called it in shorthand, I was mostly looking to see if a teammate was open so I could pass the ball to him. But sometimes your teammates need you to take the shot if you’re open, or otherwise it throws everything off. Then I watched my son do much of the same thing when he was old enough to play varsity.

It’s no fun realizing one of the bad traits has been passed along, then wondering how in the world did I ever magically instill that one in him? I don’t remember ever saying anything about following my strategy when in a game.

No matter how wide open he was, it was rare that he would fire up a jumper, and I was forced to say to myself, “Dang, he got that from me.”

One bad habit I actually told him out loud was before he was on the pitchers’ mound in Little League my advice was to throw a curveball if he ever got two strikes on someone. He promptly went out and pitched his first game against older and bigger kids, and did just what I had told him. You can only imagine the crush I felt after two perfectly good strikes were followed by a dreaded curveball that the opposing team’s batters smacked to the fence time after time. I asked him after the game what was going on with that and he said I told to throw that curveball after the first two strikes. I replied, “Don’t ever listen to anything else I tell you.”

Hopefully he remembered that advice and none of that other nonsense I laid on him since I didn’t make it to the pros in any sport and likely wouldn’t make much of a pitching coach either.

We probably all follow the same advice that we’ve heard others give when we should just go our own way and do what we think is best. But it’s not always easy doing that. Like trying to write the great American novel, it’s easier to talk about doing it than actually getting those words down on paper.

But like father, like son, it also pains me sometimes to think of the ways I’ve ended up just like my dad. One of the worst was taking a job that includes late night shifts, just as my dad in the cotton mill. I’m often stuck at the Post when evening activities are going on, or on weekends when events like my daughter’s engagement party are going on.

When I first heard that Harry Chapin song so long ago I also thought it was talking about the man on the phone, but someone had to point out it was just the man in the moon like the nursery rhyme says.

Why do I think about such things, and then write about such nonsense? Likely for the same reason I always enjoyed the column in the Observer written by the Outfront Guy. It was much to do about nothing, but it was so different from everything else in a newspaper, and it often made me chuckle. That’s why I thought it was worthwhile since not much else in the news brings out a smile.

So if I can find anything that has a little humor in it, then that’s what I’ll try.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Salisbury Post.