Our family just increased by two, with the addition of two Shih-Tzu puppies, a boy and a girl. My daughter Skylar named the girl puppy Roxy, and my son Brandon named the boy puppy Jet. His choice of name was not a surprise to anyone – Brandon loves watching Jets football, wears Jets shirts all the time, and would never take off his green-striped sweatpants if he was allowed. He is even part of a football team comprised of the other elementary school kids on our block – and they call themselves the “Craig Street Jets”. Regardless of the recent frigid temperatures, the Craig Street Jets hold practice on the block every afternoon after school, watched by their brand new mascot, Jet, our Shih-Tzu puppy. When I asked Brandon to take out a bag of garbage last night, he refused, using the freezing cold weather as his defense. “You didn’t have a problem with the temperature when you were practicing football!” I countered. “That’s different,” he said. “I was with my team.”
The absence of logic in my son’s response gave me pause long enough to decipher the one thing his 7 year old mind was talking about: camaraderie. It was that sentiment he had, created by all of his teammates faced downfield, in the same direction, with the same objective at hand, that kept him warm – or at least kept his mind off how cold the temperature outside actually was. I’m glad that he was able to find that feeling within himself and use it to learn to put other feelings (like cold) aside, rather than be distracted. Ultimately, my 7 year old boy had fun – not only playing football, but feeling like he ‘belonged’ to a team – to his team – the Craig Street Jets.
I can honestly say that I love the families who live on my block. We are all very close, and consider ourselves lucky to have these relationships. The other day, a neighbor of ours, Lisa, who is also a new mother, walked into our house without knocking and without calling ahead, which is somewhat customary amongst the neighbors of our street. She had been alone with her infant son all day, her husband had just returned home from work and she decided that there was nowhere better to spend her “break” than with my wife’s sympathetic ear. The two of them definitely have the gift of gab and talked about a variety of topics, including Lisa’s feelings about caring for her son, who is not yet two months old. “Don’t worry, Lisa,” my son told her. “I was once a baby too. It will get better,” he said. Through her laughter, Lisa managed to thank Brandon, and as she did so, her tension seemed to melt away. Lisa left soon thereafter, with the feelings of my family’s camaraderie decreasing her tension and making her feel ready to return home to her newborn.
As Lisa left, my Volunteer Fire Department pager alarm sounded with a call to help a homeless man with frostbite. I grabbed my keys and headed for the door on my way to the firehouse. “You’re on a good team, daddy,” my son told me, referring to my fellow firefighters. He was right – but the feeling of being on my son’s team made me feel even warmer than that. He’s a very smart 7 year old, with the right idea.
About Rich Jaffe: Rich Jaffe is a father of two, lawyer and volunteer firefighter living and working here on Long Island. In his spare time, he can be found coaching the Craig Street Jets to victory and training two Shih-Tzu puppies.