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posted: 7/13/2011 12:01 AM

Pick up your shoes and other fatherly advice: When giving up is OK

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By Kent McDill

As I sat in my office preparing to write this column, my 15-year-old son Dan entered with the remnants of tears in his eyes.

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"I just watched 'Toy Story 3,''' Dan said. "Man, was that sad."

I was going to remind him that "Toy Story 3" is a Disney movie, and that's what the best Disney movies do best is make us cry. Do I need to make a list? Old Yeller, Bambi's mom, Dumbo's mom, Simba's dad. I detect a theme.

My original column plan was to write about the age at which our children give things up, and that's what the entire Toy Story franchise is about. In "Toy Story" Woody gives up Andy's full attention when Buzz Lightyear shows up. In "Toy Story 2," we begin to see that Andy may give up his childhood interest in toys someday. In "Toy Story 3," Andy doesn't give up his toys, he gives them away.

It still hurt.

This is my first summer in a decade without youth baseball. Both Dan and my other son Kyle, 12, gave up baseball this summer for other athletic pursuits. Dan is now a serious distance runner, and Kyle continues to grow in club soccer, which is almost like a full-time job.

I did not fight the decision to not sign up for baseball. The truth of the matter is that with everything else the boys have going on, it would have been hard to fit baseball practices and games in to our daily schedule.

And the way our spring (if you want to call it that) went, there would have been a lot of rescheduled games or worse, games played in really lousy weather. Games played in lousy weather are also games watched in lousy weather by parents who really, really love their children but would rather be anyplace but sitting outside the lines for two-plus hours.

But there is a part of me that hates to see baseball go the way of Playskool, Barbie dolls and toy swords.

(Kyle had an absolute obsession with swords. Peter Pan, Star Wars, Princess Bride -- he watched and impersonated anything with swordplay. Amazingly, he has forgotten he ever had that fascination).

Eventually, children have to make choices about how they spend their free time. Eventually, some activities that dominated the lives of our children at younger ages go by the wayside as other activities crop up.

It's not a bad thing, necessarily. It's just a part of growing up. It's a stage of their lives that lets you know once again that time is marching on.

Neither of my boys seems to be bothered by the absence of baseball, and I should be glad of that. But being the sentimental slob that I am, I wonder what they will remember from their baseball days.

My daughter Haley, who is 17 and about to enter her senior year in high school, was an ice skater. For 10 years, she skated almost every day. When she got in third grade, she started getting private coaching. Eventually, she skated every morning before school, getting up at 5 a.m. to get on the ice by 6 a.m. to get her lessons in before she had to get ready for school at 7 a.m.

It hurt her to give up ice skating, but two things happened simultaneously to force the decision. She reached a plateau in her skating success, and she realized that skating kept her from being involved in high school activities, so she chose to turn in her skates.

I don't miss getting up with her at 5 a.m. to get to the rink. I don't miss paying the bills for ice time and coaching. What I miss is the smile on her face that popped up every time she got on the ice. She truly loved it, and while I know she believes her decision to quit was the correct one, I know it hurts her not to have that sport in her life any longer.

I'm going through a similar stage this summer. It's the summer of superhero movies, with the "X-Men: First Class," "Green Lantern," "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" on the big screen. I loved my Marvel and DC comic books, and get a weird turning in my stomach when I see the commercials for these films.

But I had to give comic books up. They were getting expensive, and hard to explain to girlfriends. Actually, they are kind of hard to explain to my kids today, but if I hadn't given them up, I wouldn't have kids, so it's some kind of wash.

The lesson of "Toy Story 3" is this: We all hope someday to have Ken's dream house. No, wait, that's not it. The lesson of "Toy Story 3" is that we all give up our toys and games, but not without a tear or two.

• Kent McDill is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Janice, have four children, Haley, Dan, Lindsey and Kyle.

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