First watch this:

Three-year-olds are relatively powerless creatures who have recently realized it. As such, they get upset about many, many things. I know this because I have two of them. The three-year-olds in my house have lost it (“losing it” is defined as screaming, crying, yelling, throwing toys, or some combination thereof) over the following (note: this is a very incomplete list):

  • The color of their fork
  • Whether the car in front of them is or is not a truck. (It IS!)
  • Being required to change a shirt after coating it in dog feces
  • Being frivolously barred from injuring themselves via jumping from the top of a slide, swinging a knife around in the kitchen, etc.

See if you non-parents can follow this logic: the kid in the video wants what he wants because he wants it. If required to handle a similar situation, given the above likelihood of a fit being thrown, most rational* parents would take the least destructive course. They’d say “fine, whatever, enjoy the Ankees,” knowing that tomorrow the kid will have forgotten all about it. Three-year-olds have the memories of goldfish. This is, of course, wrong. It is also not wrong.

* I’m coming to learn that rational parental behavior is inversely proportional to the cumulative age of their children.

I don’t know the father in the video but I’m guessing if the discussion were over which is a car or a truck, or the color of the kid’s fork, he would have taken the goldfish tack. But this is different. Unlike word definitions, fork color, or the potential health risks of covering one’s self in dog feces, this is about baseball teams and baseball teams are important.

The video ends with the father telling his three-year-old kid that if he’s going to root for the “Ankees” he’ll have to find another place to live. It’s a funny line and probably explains the video’s popularity, but some of you, most likely those of you without children, may be thinking the dad’s reaction was overly mean. In fact, you may be thinking one or more of the following things:

  1. How can you say that to your own child?
  2. What is more important, your favorite baseball team or your child?
  3. Get your priorities in order.
  4. Etcetera!

As I stated before, I have two three-year-old boys, and the answer is, to paraphrase Chris Rock, I can’t endorse that sentiment, but I understand it.

It’s not hard to have sympathy for the kid. I mean, he’s three so that’s enough right there. But it goes beyond that. Like most three-year-olds, and I don’t have any qualms about saying this even though I’m fairly certain three-year-olds make up a large portion of those who enjoy my writing, he doesn’t have a damn clue what he’s talking about.

So when you get down to it, the kid in the video might spend the night on the porch, but $20 says he’s wearing a Red Sox hat on his next birthday. If it takes a bit of parental steamrolling to get him there then maybe, considering the context, that isn’t the worst thing in the world.

* * *

“Who do we love?”

“The Red Sox!”

“That’s right!”

These things are drilled into the heads of children by their parents, much the same way religion, political parties, and every other intensely personal preference is. I’m as guilty of this kind of thing as the next parent. As parents we teach our children how to relate to the world and we do that guided by our values. But our values are a prism through which the world (and Major League Baseball) is refracted. What we think is right and wrong and all the things we care about inform this, such as the list in the first sentence of this paragraph. That includes our baseball teams. 

For some, showing your children your love of a specific team is a more personal thing than others. A friend of mine has three kids. He grew up a Red Sox fan in Boston, but he lives in Philadelphia now so that won’t be his son’s experience. His son is entering the age where fandom starts to kick in so we’ve had this discussion mostly because, potential horror of potential horrors, his son has decided that he likes the Phillies. The Phillies aren’t a direct competitor to the Red Sox, so this isn’t nearly as bad as the kid in the video who chose the Yankees. Still, there’s a part of you that wants to hand that love of team to the next generation, to have that be a bond, not a wedge.

Passing a religion or value or baseball team down to your son is in effect offering a part of yourself to them. It’s something intensely personal that you can give to them. It’s a part of you that will become a part of them, a part of who they are. If all goes well, one day they’ll hand it to one of their kids.

My kids are too young to get any of that now. Right now they run around in their little Red Sox hats not because they love the Red Sox but because that’s the hat that Daddy wears. For now that’s more than good enough. But if one of them eventually decides he loves the Yankees over the Red Sox, it might be funny on YouTube, but one of us would probably have to find a different place to live.