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If your children don’t come first, don’t read this post.

This spring marks my return to youth coaching. I am assisting Jason McGee and Dee McCullough in coaching our sons in the Bedford County Youth Baseball Coach pitch league. I must confess that it has truly been a joy watching these young men learn the game I have loved for so many years.

However, my mind is never far from the practice of law. Particularly, when spending time with children, the area of child custody. When I was growing up and playing baseball I was never (that I recall) exposed to divorced parents at the ballpark or practice field. However, in my practice there have been many cases in which a problem had arisen at ball practice or the ballpark. These are truly sad cases.

Of course, we all know that it is not at all uncommon for divorced parents to not like each other. After all, they are divorced for a reason. We also know that these disagreements often spill over and directly affect the children involved. In a perfect world, this would never happen. No such world exists.

When parents, either unilaterally or together, decide to include their child in an extra-curricular event such as baseball (basketball, soccer, football, softball or the like) they must consider the impact on the child. These activities provide vital developmental opportunities teaching children team building skills, self-discipline; playing by the rules and several other skills that will enhance their lives for years beyond. However, when we insert our petty disputes we add an unpleasantness to the experience for the child.

It has become common that divorced parents (and their extended families) often make a big deal out of staking claim to their seats both at practice and at ballparks. If you pay attention, you will invariably see a child looking for encouragement from both parents while trying not to let the other parent know this. Worse still you will see a child who has to go home with one parent crying because he wants to talk to the other parent before leaving. These are truly sad circumstances.

Imagine, if you will, being a part of a team playing a game. All of your attention is called upon to be on the field. You glance over and see the looks your mother is giving to your fathers new girlfriend. Between innings, you want a drink. Your mom gets up to give you a Frosty Gatorade. Your dad responds that it is just like your mother to not know that you like Watermelon Power-Ade.

Here’s the deal. As a parent, you need to recognize that your child is the most important thing in your life. If this is not true, you need to make it true after careful self-reflection. When you go to practice or to a game, make sure that your child does not have to worry about mommy and daddy in the stands so he can focus on the line drive coming right at him. Be a positive influence in your child’s life. Be the example that they need you to be.

Make a difference in your child’s life. Be the bigger person. Endeavor to love your child’s other parent even as you no longer love them as husband or wife. Let this love shine through in these important life building events. I promise, your efforts will be re-paid many times over. If you can’t, do us all a huge favor, don’t bother to come at all.