Golf, Strat-o-Matic Baseball, and Owning a Goal - Kimberly Thompson

Just a few weeks ago, my husband told me a great story about his childhood that I had never heard before. He said in early elementary school, they were just being exposed to the multiplication tables, and the teacher asked a challenge question: “Class, does anybody know what 36 times 2 is?”

His hand shot up. “It’s 72!”

“Very good, Doug, how did you know that?” his teacher asked.

My very sports-minded husband replied, “Because I play golf!” Which, of course, made no sense to anybody but him.

But, here’s how he said he knew the answer instantly: He knew that two rounds of 18 holes of golf equaled 36 holes. And, he knew that when he played two rounds of golf with his dad, his dad had to pay for 72 holes.  Boom.

 My husband loved sports. He extrapolated the answer to the teacher’s question from his golfing experience because he loved playing sports and paid attention to everything about it. He says he learned statistics intuitively by playing Strat-o-Matic baseball. I never played it (and probably would have thought I was being punished if I had ever tried), but apparently this was a precursor to both video games and Fantasy Football in which plays were determined by the roll of the dice. He said he would spend hours playing it by himself, rolling the dice for several teams, while he sat in front of a televised ball game.

Yes, even back in the 60s and 70s, boys played Little League and Pop Warner ball, and so my husband had periods during the year when his schedule was very structured. However, he also reports he spent a lot of time spent making up games with the kids in the neighborhood (including some games that sound pretty rough), riding bikes, and hunting frogs in the creek behind the house. As little kids, he and his brother spent the summer running around shirtless with bath towels tied around their shoulders, pretending to be Superman and Batman.  His childhood was very typical of suburban kids across America.

My husband was a really good student, but he will tell you that the only reason he made As was because he worked so hard at it. He decided early on that he wanted to be a doctor, and was motivated to work extremely hard at school from an early age. This goal was one that he OWNED — it was not because somebody else, like his parents or teachers, pinned the label “future doctor” on him. He loved science and knew that he had to work hard if he wanted a future in it. He loved science like he loved sports, and it was not a chore to do what he loved.

When your son or daughter truly owns a goal, whether it is as immediate as saving their money for something special, or something long-term like getting into a top-notch college, they will find a way to get it done.  You won’t have to force them to work for it. Now, sometimes you may have to keep them on track with reminders and training on what needs to be done, but you won’t have to bear the major burden.

What I see in today’s world is a lot of parents bearing the major burden of their child’s future lives. I’m not referring to things like making sure they have nutritious food and that they go to school every day. I’m referring to things like keeping their kids booked with sports, music, classes, tutoring — anything and everything that could possibly give their child an enrichment experience, anything that could possibly give their child a leg up on the competition. I’m referring to the pervasive fear that if your child isn’t #1 in something (or everything), then their adult lives will suck. Let me tell you — doing something because your parents are AFRAID of what will happen if you don’t … well, that sucks the joy out of it. Don’t expect your children to discover their passions if you keep them busy out of fear, or if you stand over them while they do it.

It’s OK if your kids are just kids. It’s OK if they would rather run around in a towel pretending to be Batman than practice Suzuki guitar. It’s OK if they are average.

It’s more than OK if they own their own lives. THAT is the most enriching experience of all.


     I am Dr. Kimberly Thompson, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Lubbock, Texas. I work with mothers and their children to help them heal, grow, and live their most vibrant lives. My particular expertise is pregnant and postpartum women, and moms of “littles.” My book, Perfect Mothers Get Depressed, is available on Amazon and from Praeclarus Press. If you live within driving distance of Lubbock, you can work with me face-to-face; if you live anywhere else in the state of Texas, you can work with me via online therapy. Send me a message if you need more information, or call my office at (806) 224-0200 if you’re ready to book an appointment.