There is so much wrong with the Adam LaRoche situation that I don’t even know where to begin. So let’s start with a review: LaRoche, a White Sox first baseman and designated hitter, walked away from the second year of a $26-million contract after the organization said he could no longer bring his 14-year-old son, Drake, to work with him every day. Because everyone wants to spend even more time — like all day long — with their children, especially their ornery teenagers, right?
Before you get all sentimental, realize that LaRoche was scheduled to retire after this year anyway. My husband, Dustin, plans to retire from the military next year. Maybe he can go out in a blaze of glory, too, claiming that family comes first and he’s opposed to the Pentagon’s family-unfriendly rules that don’t allow teenagers to go on deployment with their dad. Shoot, tours of duty to Diego Garcia don’t even allow for wives to come either.
Forgetting all of this, however, in the wake of the controversy, parenting websites posted the story to be what seemed like bait for all the “What a great father” comments that would surely follow. Some did nothing short of crown LaRoche as the “world’s greatest dad.”
On Twitter, people commended LaRoche for standing up for what he believes in. LaRoche’s brother, Andy, another former MLB player, tweeted “Takes a hell of a man to step away from the game he loves for what he believes in @e3laroche #faithandfamilyfirst.”
Bryce Harper, a right-fielder for the Nationals, tweeted, “Good for you Roche! Nothing like father and son in the clubhouse .. It’s a FAMILY game #FamilyFirst.”
These things are easy to say. Everyone wants to believe that family always comes first. But does it? Or, rather, does “family comes first” necessarily mean that moms and dads spend all their waking hours with their children?
For families who aren’t making $13 million a year, “family first” means working long hours, or even multiple jobs, so that your children can have all the things you want for them, like college and new shoes. For a soldier leaving his children behind for his fifth deployment, “family first” means sacrificing the comforts of home and the privilege of watching all the “firsts” (first smile, first step, first day of school) for all the peace and security he wishes for his family.
These moms and dads don’t have the option to walk away from their careers because their children can’t come with them to work. But these moms and dads also don’t equate all-day togetherness with importance. A secretary working 9-to-5 doesn’t have the luxury to demand that her children accompany her at work every day, or even on the days that her child is home from school for a snow day and she has to hire a babysitter instead. But the secretary and (someday hopefully her children) knows that being the “world’s best mom” isn’t necessarily the goal.
This is the dangerous road our helicopter parenting and “me society” has brought us down. We’ve all been duped into believing that missing even one school play, Sunday morning pancakes or, Heaven forbid, a birthday, means that we aren’t measuring up as a parent. And woe is the parent who doesn’t really like to make pancakes on Sunday or the one who would rather mow the lawn than play Chutes and Ladders with a 5-year-old.
And thanks to softly-lit commercials on Nick Jr. that show unnaturally patient moms making Dora cupcakes with their children in a clean kitchen, our kids are beginning to think this is a norm. I mean, how does the kid whose dad has been deployed for seven months feel when he hears that LaRoche quit baseball because his son couldn’t be with him everyday? That child is led to believe his father doesn’t love him as much as he should, or he would quit his job, too.
Really people, our kids were doing just fine before this hyper-parenting became a thing. They were outside learning baseball from their friends, sledding without their parents, testing the limits and learning about consequences. And LaRoche’s son, after all this attention dies down, will do just fine, too, maybe even better, when he’s outside riding bikes with the neighborhood kids instead of sitting in a locker room with a bunch of men.
It’s dangerous for us to continue to lift up these privileged people like LaRoche, celebrities who are leading fairy-tale lives unlike the rest of us, as examples of great parenting. Nothing about his choices and opportunities relates to the majority of parents in America, and therefore, cannot be the “example” for the rest of us.
I can’t bring my sons to work every day. I don’t want to bring my sons to work every day. I want them to be in school, playing Little League and hanging out with their peers. And I promise you, that is OK, because that’s how “family comes first” to me.