Fatherhood. A role that is so important, enjoyable, and stressful all wrapped into one. Life is a single journey, filled with so many chapters. It’s a winding, curvy, uphill/downhill, meandering pathway to an unknown ending. I’m 36 years old right now, but can vividly recall memories of my first days as a kindergartner. In 1987, our school’s varsity boy’s basketball team was dubbed “The Dream Team,” earning the state’s #1 ranking all season long. The Hawley Nuggets eventually took their undefeated record of 26-0 to the state semi-finals, losing 54-53 in a heartbreaking loss. That experience fed my love and lore for sports, coupled with the 1987 Twins winning the Worlds Series. Canoe trips, visits to the Metrodome to cheer on the Twins (and whenever the A’s were in town) and being involved in a multitude of school sports and activities dot my entire youth days. I don’t know why, but I can still remember many school/life events during my youth. That part of my brain must be wired differently than the rest of my brain — I have a terrible working/organizational mind when it comes to getting things done sometimes. My youth culminated in meeting my eventual bride-to-be, my high school sweetheart Tonia. College and later being a teacher and coach brought much more responsibility, pride, and free time. My wife and I both attended college in Bemidji, MN, and later relocated back to Hawley, MN. We were married in 2002 and lived seven busy, but quiet years without children. Coaching year round fit the bill for me, whether it was junior high football in the fall, junior high and elementary traveling-team basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring and summer. Being immersed in my first full-time post-college job, third grade teacher at Atkinson Elementary in Barnesville also consumed my time with incredible memories and growth as an educator. My wife, meanwhile, plugged away with her career goals— her first in education but then turned nursing career, busy with school and work, she’s always carried the bigger share of the load (and still does today!). Life was good back then I’ve gotta say — we bought our first home, traveled all over, and thought we were too busy enough then.
Flash forward to 2017 — we’ve been married almost 15 years, and now have three sons. Jonathan is 7 and is in 2nd grade, Carter is 4 and in preschool, and Luke just turned two in December. Each day brings new challenges, joys, frustrations, and emotions.
First and foremost, you want your children to be healthy — we are so blessed to have three healthy boys! Some days, there’s peace in the valley at home and all three coexist in harmony. Those days, however, are few and far between.
With the commotion of the everyday tasks of life, the events we’re involved in with our jobs, kids’ activities, and church, and the needs of our boys, it can be difficult to find quality one-on-one time with the boys, let alone each other. They’re great playmates, but are now finding ways to meddle and be mischievous to each other, resulting in being more police officer than father in the house. Nonetheless, we know it’s all part of growing up, both for the boys and for us as parents. We certainly want to soak it all in because these years will zip by in the blink of an eye!
My oldest son Jonathan is a typical oldest-child. He’s a sponge when it comes to learning new information, he’s very caring and sincere, and at school is the consummate rule-follower. In his four years of school, he’s been in trouble just one time — for kissing a girl in kindergarten. I’ll take that compared over a lot of other things he could be getting in trouble with! He’s super curious, loves Legos, playing piano, and is a geography nut. HELLO — his favorite TV Show is “How the States Got Their Shapes.” He even has the first two seasons on DVD! He would rather have a notepad and a pen to play with instead of a device or a video game. He’s a throwback kid in that regard. He is, however, the most uncompetitive competitor when it comes to playing games or sports. Win or lose, he’s just pleased to be a part of the action.
He could care less how he does (so he says) — It’s a tough thing to tackle as a parent — how much influence should you have in terms of your child’s interests? How much do you push versus let them go their own way? I know what MY interests are…..but what about his? I’ve come to the conclusion that I want my boys to choose their paths on own, and that they alone by the choices they make will determine their success/failure within each of those activities or ventures. Just as long as they’re involved in activities and try as many things as they can as they get older instead of coming right home after school to play 5 hours of video games (there’s too much of this in today’s world unfortunately). Luckily, our little community on the edge of the prairie has a great deal to offer for youth. I’ll always be there as a resource for help or advice, and he will always be exposed to sports with what I do, but I want the boys to do what they want. The last thing I want to do on my deathbed is have the regret of pursuing the dreams of my youth vicariously through my children.
So Jonathan….he’s always been somewhat interested in my all-time, yet somewhat recent favorite hobby — APBA Baseball. For those that don’t know what APBA (pronounced APP-buh) Baseball is, it’s a simple yet complicated baseball board game that involves cards and dice. You basically “play” games with Major League teams using special cards, dice, and a playbook. For me, it’s the one thing I do to let go of all that’s around me….when I play it, I’m not thinking about work, bills, doing the laundry, renovating the bathroom, etc. It’s just the game and me, and it’s a trip back into the past….into simpler times…
Recently, Jonathan asked me when he could play the game with me. He’d played a couple times before, but lost interest as he didn’t quite have the patience to finish a game (a game takes about 20-30 minutes). We started talking some more. He really wanted to play and to “use the i-Pad for keeping track of the score” (I use an app that’s an interactive scorebook and stat keeper). As far as the teams, I came up with an idea. When he was born in 2009, baseball was at the forefront that whole year. Jonathan was born on May 15th. A day later, I was back in Hawley for a double-header on a Saturday as we won two big games. Our team advanced to the Minnesota State Class A Baseball Tournament for the second consecutive season. We finished 3rd in the state in 2008 and 4th in 2009–some of the best times of my life!
Later that summer, the Twins celebrated their final season in the Metrodome. 9,999 out of 10,000 people were happy to see the ‘Dome go and couldn’t wait to go to Target Field the following season. I was that 1 out of 10,000 that was going to miss the ‘Dome (more on that in another blog post). It was my mission to see as many Twins games as I could that summer down in Minneapolis before the end of the Twins’ era at the Metrodome. We were fortunate enough to take Jonathan to four games in the Metrodome that year (out of the ten I saw). So I talked to Jonathan about what team he would like to play with. He wasn’t quite sure, so I told him about the 2009 Twins and the connections he had with them. He was sold right away…and not a minute later, he suggested that I choose a team from the year I was born (1980), and that it should be the Oakland A’s (my favorite franchise). I was like, “That’s a really cool idea, buddy!” He just grinned ear-to-ear with pride! So…the ball was rolling here for something potentially special!
Over the last couple of days in the mornings before we’d head to school, I had Jonathan enter the 2009 Twins and 1980 A’s team information into the I-PAD, a task he immensely enjoyed! He entered all of the players, their numbers, and positions using baseball-reference.com. It kept the house in harmony as those mornings trying to get three young kids ready for the day aren’t exactly smooth sailing most mornings! Today (a Saturday), after playing outside on a balmy 50 degree February day here in west-central Minnesota, we were on a mission to start to play a game of APBA. Jonathan wanted to play a best-of-seven series “just like the real teams do.” I asked him if we should make up a name for the series, and he said yes. So….we are calling it the “Father-Son Birthyear World Series.” Original, huh? LOL. I got the game all set up with the cards, dice, iPad, rulebook, team pennants, and my own little slice of heaven, my custom-built ballpark I roll games in (another future blog post). Meanwhile, as I did the prep work, Jonathan went upstairs. Since it was noon, I figured he was fixing himself a quick drink or snack.
He comes back downstairs. With what you might ask? Baseball “fans” cheering on the bleachers! He’d gone up to his room to quickly assemble a set of bleachers with whatever Lego people he could find, “So we can have fans watching what we do,” he said. LOL – what a kid! As we were about to finally begin this epic series, we heard the better half of the Lofgren Household call for lunch. After our tasty meal wrapped up at 12:45, it was nap time for Luke so that was my job (yes…I squeezed in a nap, too!) Tonia entertained Jonny and Carter playing the new card game version of Oregon Trail. Two hours slipped by. Instead of being hunkered down in the house all day, Jonny, Carter, and I ended up running to Fargo, ND (because it’s nice to get out of town once in awhile) to watch the new Lego Batman movie with Grandma (If you like Legos and Batman–the movie is a MUST SEE). After the movie and supper at Culver’s, we returned home at 8:00 PM , just in time for bed. So….our little series didn’t start. However, the game will be awaiting our return whenever time permits.
I’m hoping that it will sway his confidence and curiously just a tad bit more into baseball, but more importantly, I’m looking forward to the time spent with my Jonny boy, rolling some dice, teaching about baseball, and just talking about the events of the day in both of our worlds. The series itself should be a doozy as the 2009 Twins were 86-77 while the 1980 A’s were 86-76 during their respective seasons. Jonny’s Twins will be the home team for Games 1 and 2 as he had the highest dice roll to determine home/away for the series. What will happen? Who knows! We will continue to meander down life’s path, and the game will await until life deals us the time to sit and play together. Until then….