The day we didn’t play catch

June 13, 2012 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary

It’s too easy, unfortunately, for fathers to brush off this simple request; “Dad, how about a game of catch?”

We’re all busy, aren’t we? And it’s too cold, too hot, too sunny, getting dark, something. It’s too easy to say no to our children’s simple request for some of our time. But passing up that chance to play catch means missing out on something much more important.

Children need time with their dads.

A 2008 study from Great Britain found “consistent evidence” that a father’s involvement with his kids had a lot to do with better attitudes and behavior in his children. When the study focused on performance in school, it found that a dad’s interest and involvement led to better grades too.

The noteworthy part of the study was that quality, not quantity of time, was the deciding factor.

It’s encouraging when surveys repeatedly show that the majority of dads want to be more involved in their children’s lives and education, but studies also report – disturbingly – that a substantial number of fathers spend no time with their children on a daily basis.

No time! One study estimated that working dads spend three minutes a day with their kids. Does that sound any better?

The first time I got my eldest son outside for a game of catch, he missed a throw and the ball plunked him in the head. He cried and we quit for the day. There were other days, and a similar experience with a football, but I’m happy to say that now, 15 years later, he fondly remembers those times together. Memories of that first day, however, have always remained somewhat foggy. (Just kidding)

But he also remembers the many times that I was too busy to play. That hurts. I can’t recall now anything I was doing back then that was important enough for me to say “no” to a game of catch with my son.

So what makes that game of catch so special?

  1. It’s not a toy or any other substitute for your attention. When you play with your children, you belong to them. They get to make up the rules for a little while. Years later, those memories and relationships remain, while those broken and forgotten toys have long since been tossed in the landfill.
  2. It’s your chance to talk. You and your child need a private place to share important feelings, fears and ideas with each other, and the back yard or park is a good spot. And, between pitches or free throws, you can just listen, a critical skill every dad should cultivate.
  3. It’s exercise and not TV or a computer game. Do you really need to be told that both you and your children should get up off the couch and move around more?
  4. It’s a rite of passage for many dads to pass on skills and life stories to their sons and daughters. If you love baseball, whether you were a star player or benchwarmer, it’s likely you have at least a niggling desire that your children love the game too, or at least appreciate your passion. Here is your chance to pass along some of who you are.

We only get one chance to be with our children before they grow up. Your special times can be baseball, football, basketball or tennis. But they don’t have to be. It could be fishing, hiking, skateboarding (careful!), or just going for a walk together. Sharing your child’s interest unlocks the door to sharing time together.

When your son or daughter asks, “Dad, will you (insert activity here) with me?” put down whatever you’re doing. You know what’s really important.


Read more about the British study at

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