It’s spring break. My younger son is somewhere in Georgia — I’m fuzzy as to where — rowing with his NU crew team. My older son is busy with friends before he wings back to California on Tuesday.
Neither is sprawled on my office floor.
But not so long ago, they’d both be spending a lot of their spring break under the chairs in my office, vigorously manipulating their men — a ragtag squad of knights, soldiers, monsters, superheroes and the occasional farm animal.
They loved coming to work with Dad. Loved it. Because they so adored their father, their hero …
Kidding. I’m savvy enough to know that I was the smallest part of that equation, which in their mind involved, in order of importance: 1) six hours of Nickelodeon 2) sugary drinks 3) breakfast at Harry’s Hotdogs at Randolph and Franklin 4) lunch in a fancy restaurant and 5) me.
Then I mentioned in a column that my older son had spent three days straight at work.
The city editor promptly popped his head into my office to tell me exactly what designated hitter Adam LaRoche, whose 14-year-old son, Drake, had a locker in the team’s clubhouse, was told recently by White Sox management: Enough with the kid, already.
Unlike LaRoche, I did not promptly quit. I’m mystified by the whole quitting thing. These baseball jobs, they’re hard to get, yes? Harder, even, than newspaper jobs?
Was that wise? Isn’t that a lot to put on a boy? “My dad was a professional baseball player . . . and then he quit . . . because of me.” Thanks, Dad. A reminder that these professional athletes are permanent boys themselves; stars from age 10 to whom the word “No” is an earthquake.
I didn’t quit. But I didn’t stop bringing them to the office, either. I just waited a few months, then did it more slyly. Knowing when to ignore your boss’s instructions is a key survival skill in any industry but particularly in newspapering. Half the time they don’t remember what they said themselves. “Didn’t I tell you to stop bringing in that kid?” “No, no . . . You said bring him more.” “I did?” “Sure, don’t you remember?” “Oh yeah, I did.”
Isn’t parking a 14-year-old in the White Sox locker room a kind of child abuse? Or at least neglect? Not exactly summer camp. A great kid, no doubt, but LaRoche doesn’t really know who was bitching about it behind his back. I remember, it could be disturbing to see certain colleagues’ children, those of co-workers I disliked. Some particularly despised colleague would bring his kid in, and my heart would overflow with sympathy. Poor kid. I could barely manage a few minutes a day in his old man’s presence and was being paid to endure it. How much more difficult must it be to have this jerk be king of your world? It was all I could do not to draw the kid aside, get down on one knee, clamp a hand on his shoulder, look him squarely in the eye and whisper, “Your dad’s an idiot. It’s not your fault. Take strength in that. Remember: Dad an idiot. Not your fault. Be strong.”
The White Sox kerfuffle has already spun out of control — team solidarity shattered like glass, if you believe pitcher Chris Sale. I haven’t heard Sox players complain so much since they were claiming that they couldn’t play well because Harry Caray was making fun of them. I’d say the problem with having a child in the White Sox locker room is that they’ve got too many children there already, in adult bodies.
Figure this one out, boys, and move on.