Friday, May 29, 2015

Take Your Kid to Work Day

She grabs for the microphone, offers her chewed gum to bystanders, plays hide and seek under the table and behind the curtains, and, apparently, either steals your heart or turns your stomach. Riley Curry, the beautiful and lively two-year-old daughter of Golden State Warrior Stephan Curry has been getting more press and generating more discussion lately than the NBA players themselves. Most of the discussion is divided between two camps. Some say that children have no place in professional workplaces. Others say that children can not only be welcome in certain work settings, but can even enhance them.

For my money, Stephan Curry can have his daughter in every press conference that he does. Sure, that child is a tornado in the press room, but the issue is not Curry's parenting style, but whether or not he is effectively doing his job. I remember one night during my graduate studies when my ex-wife got stuck at work late and couldn't come get the big kids in time for me to go to class. My daughter was two at the time, and my son was five. The professor's policy towards missed classes and tardiness was pretty strict, but she was also a very fair and kind person. So, rather than miss the class with a sorry-sounding excuse, I showed up fifteen minutes early with two little kids in tow and threw myself on the mercy of the academic. I figured she was either going to let me come to class with them until their mother could pick them up, or turn me away, but I was determined to show that I was willing to go the extra mile to be a good student. Of course, I knew that I was hedging my bet, since the professor was a devout feminist and the course was in women's literature. In a way, it was kind of a test of the feminist perspective on fatherhood. And it worked. She said that as long as I could guarantee that the kids weren't disruptive, they would be welcome to stay. For the next hour or so, my son silently colored and played with his Game Boy in the desk next to me. My daughter on the other hand, while she was definitely well-behaved and quiet the entire time, needed more personal interaction in order to stay still. She spent that same time meticulously brushing my hair. Hard. With the wrong side of the wooden brush. It turned out well, in that the class went on as well as it normally would, and the kids' presence even informed the discussion when the topic turned to women writers working while caring for children. Unfortunately, I did need to ice down my head afterwards. Because of the brushing, that is, not the discussion.

To Stephan Curry's credit, he seems to be able to answer questions just as well as he would otherwise. I mean, when most of the athletes' post-game answers are the same anyway, how much does it really matter? How many times do we need to hear about missed opportunities and failing to come together as a team when a team loses? Or formidable opponents but making sure we played our style of game when they win? If anything, some of those same reporters that were supposedly so negatively affected by the disruption said that having the cute little girl causing havoc for her father made for more human interest and a more relatable story for their audience. On top of that, the NBA suddenly becomes a family centered organization, infinitely more attractive to women and others outside their normal demographic. The player becomes more than a scoring machine for his fans, and probably gives them a whole new reason to cheer him on, buy his shoes, and wear his jersey. Everybody wins.

In fact, I think that the real winner here is the Curry family, and maybe all of us watching them. In all of the debate over whether this beautiful child should be there, I had the hardest time finding any articles discussing why she was there at all. I put it together when I realized that she seems to show up at away games. Apparently, Stephen Curry has his wife and daughter travel with him, at least some of the time. If I were him, I would do exactly the same thing, not just because I want them around after a game, win or lose, but also to keep me honest. Too many of the other stories we hear about NBA players, and other athletes as well, are about them cheating on their wives with countless women, being accused of rape, or losing their families because of infidelity. I've even heard some basketball players try to make themselves out to be the victim, complaining that they are unable to resist the kind of aggressive groupies that are sometimes even sneaking into their hotel rooms on the road. I bet having wifey in the suite when one of those chicks tries to break in is a real deterrent to that kind of behavior. I bet it would be really funny to see those stiletto heels and tight skirts running down the hotel hall with a lamp flying after them. If you can afford to have your wife and child with you on the road, then why wouldn't you? Some might say it would interfere with his game, but I can tell you that the effect of having your woman watch you play is an exponential increase in both hustle and focus. I play ball with my friends after work at least three days a week, and whenever one of our wives or girlfriends come in the gym, it turns into a highlight reel for her man.

In addition to the incident with the college class, I've had to take my kids to work in other situations. When he was one, I pushed my son around in an Office Max cart for a couple of hours once, confusing the heck out of customers when I asked if they needed help. The irony was that I met another father that day who told me he once had to bring his two-year-old son to work - as an orchestra conductor. Just dressed the kid up in a baby tuxedo and sat him down in the pit with a plastic trumpet. As an adjunct professor, I had to bring both of the big kids to the last session of a freshman class I was teaching when they were five and seven. We got there early, they sat in the back and kept quiet, and students mostly came in to get their final essays back and have one last conference. I think most of the students thought the kids belonged to one of the other students in the class. Just a couple weeks ago, the baby couldn't go back to day care, because she hadn't been 24 hours without a fever, so I took her to work with me. I made her a little play area behind my desk where she would be out of sight, and she could play with my phone and some toys. I only had two classes that day anyway. One class had a test, so I could keep a close eye on her most of the time. The other class had a discussion and Q&A about a chapter in The Sun Also Rises, and she made one minor distraction, but otherwise stayed out of sight. My point is that in each case, I made a choice. It was either take the kids to work and do my job, and do it well, despite their presence, or take off from work and not only disrupt the learning program for my students, but also force the school to incur the cost and hassle of hiring a substitute. I figured that as long as I could do my job, and at the same time take care of my child properly, I would bring them.

Sure, if Riley were running out on the court and tripping up players or hanging on to her daddy's leg through a fast break, it would be a problem. But if Stephan is doing his job, giving good answers to reporters, if they're getting their soundbites, and their stories file on time, I don't see the problem. Maybe the reporters who are complaining need to understand their role in the sports industry. Nobody comes to these arenas because of what they write. Nobody turns on the game to watch them. Nobody even turns on the post-game interviews to see them. They tune in to see the players. And now, not even that. Now they tune in to see Riley.

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