For the love of the game

My son, Eli, and I recently returned from a quick two-day trip to Dallas. Our shared goal was to see as much good baseball as possible. My own objective was to soak up as much one-on-one time with him as I could.

Everything about this stage of his life feels like it's reaching forward and away. His body is poised for a growth spurt, ready to emerge Hulk-like at the breakfast table. His voice is slowly deepening, his knowledge on many subjects far surpasses my own, and his eyes are level with mine.

I admit I'm in a sort of panic about the narrow window of time I have left with Eli at home. It's a short five years, and the countdown keeps popping up in the back of my mind.

I remember when I urged on the passing of certain milestones like teething, sleeping through the night, potty training and the year of constant ear infections. Now time is zipping along, and while I want to celebrate and encourage Eli's pathway toward independence, I also hope to pave it with genuine connection.

Dr. Curt Thompson suggests parents establish a healthy bond with their children through curiosity for their kids and their interests. There is no greater gateway to relationship with Eli than baseball; it's as much a part of who he is as the very fibers of his being.

And so, on a whim of indulgent spontaneity, I pulled up the schedule of Eli's favorite college baseball team, the Dallas Baptist University Patriots, and said, "Pick a game, and let's go see it."

With plans to watch DBU play the Baylor Bears on Tuesday night, we left for Dallas on Monday to squeeze in a night game between the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros.

Going to a game with Eli means arriving two hours before the first pitch to watch batting practice and try for an autographed ball. It means eating copious amounts of ice cream in souvenir helmets and lingering after the crowd departs for one last glimpse of the players in the dugouts.

When the DBU game was canceled Tuesday because of stormy weather, disappointed yet undeterred, we pivoted with a return to the Rangers stadium for more baseball, ice cream and this time, an autographed ball from Zack Gelof of the Oakland Athletics.

Years from now, Eli will remember the time I took him to Dallas, but the moments we shared will blur at the edges, and I'm not sure what his memory will hold. How someone makes us feel is what ultimately transcends the passing of time. For Eli, I hope he felt seen, appreciated and loved, on this trip with my boy, who will all too soon be a man.

- Jade Cook of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].