Fostering the right ideas
Looking to athletes for parenting advice is akin to asking Bernie Madoff to become your financial advisor.
Jocks tend to have little trouble making babies; many are so good at it, in fact, that they ask several different women to join in on the fun along the way. But after they sire, they often retire.
There’s been no shortage of stories over the years detailing the efforts of deserted females to locate runaway athletic daddies and obtain financial assistance from them to raise the children they fathered. No one sport has a monopoly on producing those hit-and-run types, but the NFL can certainly claim its fair share of serial sperm donors.
Maybe it’s the whole macho mindset attached to football that creates such circumstances. Compassion is not a requirement for gridiron stardom, but it sure does help when assessing the needs of others. And while displaying any amount of tenderness will get one steamrolled on the football field, doing the same thing away from it is a highly commendable act.
But even if players attempt to exhibit those traits, they may very well receive negative feedback from within their sporting fraternity.
I remember an incident about 20 years ago, when a former Houston Oilers offensive lineman briefly left the team to be with his wife while she was giving birth. While David Williams unquestionably did the correct thing — his wife had suffered a miscarriage the year before and he didn’t want to be away from her the next time she was in a maternity ward — the Oilers didn’t agree.
Management fined him for missing that weekend’s game, and one of his coaches had this to say to the New York Times at that time:
“This is like World War II, when guys were going to war and something would come up but they had to go. [When] my wife told me she was having a baby, I said, ‘Honey, I’ve got to go play a football game.’ David just went blank. He let the guys down, and he let hundreds of thousands of fans down.”
Well, not really. After the incident, a majority of Oilers fans — and football fans in general — came down firmly on Williams’ side of the argument. Bears defensive back Charles Tillman had similar public support last season when he said he would put tot before team as the arrival date of his child drew closer, although it turned out the baby had exquisite timing and did not cause a scheduling conflict.
David Williams and Charles Tilman get it. So, too, does Arian Foster, of whom I’ve suddenly become a big fan.
Foster is a Houston Texans running back, and a very good one, as evidenced by his multiple Pro Bowl appearances. But he showed a very different side of himself recently when an article he wrote ran on the Yahoo!Shine website.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, for whom life outside of football consists almost exclusively of a whirlwind tour of nightclubs and other social hot spots, Foster focuses on the family. He and his wife, Romina, have a 4-year-old daughter and 4-month-old son, and Foster offered his thoughts about child-rearing on Yahoo!Shine.
What amazed me about his comments is that Foster, despite his hefty income and fame, came off sounding very much like Everyman. The dollars he earns evidently haven’t eroded his common sense.
Consider, for instance, what he wrote about his all-pro status: “…I guess you could say I’m one of the lucky ones that I not only hit the genetic lottery, but had people around me who believed in my dream. I also somehow had the luck and wherewithal to keep my nose clean and do just enough in school to get by.”
You’ve got to admire a guy who doesn’t believe he’s a gift to humanity simply because he can outrun would-be tacklers better than any of us could. But there’s much more to like about Foster.
He presented a six-point plan he has for raising his daughter and son. Interestingly, only one had to do with finances, and Foster’s viewpoint is one most of us can probably relate to pretty easily.
Having grown up without many luxuries — being spoiled meant renting something from Blockbuster for family movie night — Foster learned to appreciate whatever niceties came his way. He stated that he doesn’t want his kids to ever take money for granted, so in order for his little girl to get a $34 video game she recently wanted, Foster and his wife had her do “chores” to earn the item.
It’s not a novel concept, to be sure, but it’s becoming increasingly rare in these give-your-kids-everything-they-want-so-they’ll-be-your-pals days. And for an athlete to be so determined to do things the old-fashioned way is nothing short of astounding.
Foster doesn’t stop there. He also wants his kids to practice being happy and kind, traits that seem trite but aren’t put into practice with as much regularity as before. I like what Foster had to say about kindness, which is “a virtue you must have if you are around me.”
Here is more on that subject:
“Negative energy sucks the life out of people, and we’re here to smile! You must treat people kindly. I was taught that people will rarely remember what you tell them, but they will always remember how you made them feel. No one is any better than you are and you are no better than anyone else. We are all doing the best we can to figure out this thing we call life, so humble yourself to the fact that you know very little. I’m no different. I know very little, but I do my best to learn. I’ve learned things from a man with a PhD, a man who lived under a bridge, and a child.”
There’s more, but you get the idea. Foster later explains his strategies for preparing his children to choose wisely when it comes to finding a mate, religion and career. Again, it’s not so much the message that is unique, but the messenger delivering it.
You just don’t anticipate hearing such thoughtful, in-depth analysis about a non-sports topic from a professional athlete.
That’s not to say, of course, Foster has all the answers, nor does he profess to be more enlightened than other parents. And there’s no guarantee his children will be able to avoid all hardships or will always be in total agreement — he essentially admits that himself when he says he’s sure “this list will change as we both grow.”
Still, all of us could probably do a lot worse than follow Foster’s blueprint for family life. We’d better be careful, though, and not let our guard down.
If we do, we’ll start expecting athletes to do all our critical thinking for us. Before you know it, we’ll want Dennis Rodman unofficially serving as a cross-dressing foreign affairs liaison for the U.S.
Wow, it’s scary to see how quickly our dependency can grow.