My 3½-year-old son woke up roughly a dozen times the other night between midnight and 4:29 a.m. This woke up my 2-year-old daughter, who managed to get her entire body on a pillow without a blanket, a hair's breadth away from falling into a bin full of creepy stuffed animals. Meanwhile, my younger daughter miraculously soothed herself to sleep as a 1-month-old in part because she had no other choice as I was too busy trying to help my son. I should have been looking for a glass of red wine.
I had the chance to be in the same uniform with Jorge Posada for a spring training and he was a pleasure to be around. Class act, always warm and welcoming, he was one of the reasons I was so pleasantly surprised that my Yankees experience after being a lifelong outsider was so positive.
His commitment to children is clear, with his foundation and the challenges his son has faced with a condition called craniosynostosis. So I heard him loud and clear when he spoke about "spending more time with his family" after his retirement.
Even so, his quote reminded me of a bone I want to pick with the most overused retiring athlete quote in history: "I want to spend more time with the family." What does that mean exactly?
If you are a pro athlete, no matter how much you try and tell yourself, you are an absentee parent at various times. That is not to say you can't be a great parent, just that there are a lot of moments you simply cannot be there. You are on a road trip in Colorado and your son hits his head on the bookshelf like he always does at 5 p.m. and there is no way you can fly home between batting practice groups and put ice on it. Or during that West Coast swing, you are missing that dance recital, that soccer practice, or that first time they walk.
It worked out for me that I had my family after I stopped playing. I was fortunate to be able to be there at my children's births. I didn't have to look over my shoulder, wondering if I was losing my starting job with each day I was at my wife's bedside; I didn't have to explain why I wanted to stay an extra day in the hospital to make sure everything was OK. I fully understand that to be a gift, one that most professional athletes don't always have if they have children in the thick of a season.
I have thoroughly enjoyed being a parent, it is transformational to say the least. To watch them grow and to be able to walk my son to school or float my daughter in swimming class is a lot of fun and so many parents, let alone pro baseball players, do not have that opportunity.
The greatest gift you gain with the wealth you can accumulate from playing pro baseball is the power of being able to have time. You may be in the position to set your own schedule in retirement, one that revolves around your family. But you have to want that to be the case. A lot of people make a ton of money and spend the rest of their lives trying to make more.
But let's not get it twisted -- parenting is a huge challenge. It will gray your head in a split second and while there are the joys, I still want every athlete who talks about retiring to spend more time with the family to hear from a guy who is in the middle of it with three kids under 4 years old. So here are a few ideas from my humbling experience:
1. Baby monitors were invented by something evil: Someone went out and decided that you need to watch and listen to your children 29 hours a day, nine days a week on a device. You wonder if that extra breath you heard is a sign of asthma, you wonder if that shadow caused by something you can't clearly see on a screen the sign of a postage stamp is an intruder who climbed through the window. Then you get used to the monitor and realize you may have slept through the time your son woke up, found your iPhone, and played "Angry Birds" for eight hours. And no, he never changed his diaper during that time.
2. For fathers, play dates take time -- be patient: It is true, when you are all of a sudden home all of the time, you have to master the social circles. When you decide to go on a play date, you have to understand that you may be the only man around for miles. In fact, when I took my son to his language class, one woman asked me, "What is it you do for a living that allows you to be here at this time?" Don't take it personally, but you have to prove you are not going to run off with everyone else's child before you are welcomed. Relax. When they welcome you, you are the coolest husband on the block.
3. If you have two kids around the same age, don't be the pingpong ball: I suppose big-time athletes may be able to give each child their own room. If you put two toddlers in the same room, be warned they will play you off each other all day unless you put your foot down. If one wants water, the other wants water; if you read one an extra story, make it two. And of course, everyone has to use the potty at the same time, making you think you need two toilets side by side. Don't fall for it.
4. The potty: No one has to go to the bathroom until you have dressed them all in their snowsuits and then buckled them in their car seats and are about to pull out of the school parking lot. You can remind them many times about going to the bathroom before they leave school, but just the act of your being ready to do something, like eat, makes them have to go. Count to 10, then slowly take off all 33 layers of clothes or don't bother and hope for the best on the drive home. You won't make it. I have tried.
5. Your son or daughter may not be a chip off the ol' block, athletically: Maybe his swing has eight holes in it, maybe her jump shot is beyond repair. Being home, now you have to see the other part of that game, the part when he kicked the umpire or chased a firefly during an at-bat and ran into the kid in the on-deck circle.
6. Yes, it has to go that exact way: Yes, the oatmeal can only be eaten with a green spoon. Yes, she has to put on her own shoes even when you are 20 minutes late and it will take another 20 minutes for her to get them on. Yes, it really is a big deal to a 3-year-old that the red train face west when bedtime rolls around. Don't fight it, just redirect it.
7. Mr. Fix It and Move It: You probably have the cash to have a handyman in your basement. It doesn't matter. There will be too many situations where you have to bust out that tool kit and get after it. Sometimes you'll need to take out car seats or put them back, depending on what you need to pick up in the back of that very uncool minivan. Kids grow and rooms need to grow with them, so forget about the gym -- you will get plenty of weight training by moving bookshelves, curios, dressers and sandboxes.
But it is all worth it: The moment when your son goes back down the stairs to help another kid go up them. The time when your son advises you when you are tired to "close one eye and rest that side of your body; with the other eye, leave it open so you can play with me." Or maybe my daughter who has been reciting "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" since she was 18 months old.
Throughout my career, I faced quite a few future Hall of Famers. Maddux, Glavine, Johnson. They are nowhere near as tough as running a household full of kids 24-7. So thank whoever has been doing that during your entire career. Like a Justin Verlander, that person should get the MVP and Cy Young in the same year. Every year.
Welcome home -- and if you take a coaching job 2,500 miles away from home a few weeks after you said you were going home to spend time with the family, I get a free pass to call you out.
Doug Glanville, who earned a degree in systems engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, played nine major league seasons with the Cubs, Phillies and Rangers. He serves on the board of Athletes Against Drugs and on the board of the MLB Players Alumni Association. His book, "The Game from Where I Stand," was released in May 2010. Click here to buy it in paperback on Amazon.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dougglanville