There are golden moments in a kid’s life that don’t always come around again – so you want to be sure you’re there.

For starters:

  • A baby’s first smile
  • A baby’s first steps
  • The first day of kindergarten
  • The first dance recital
  • The first home run in Little League

This last one is why, while shooting hoops recently at the playground near my home in Forest Hills, New York, I ambled over to help a young mother pitch a ball to her son who was probably eight years old.

My two kids are grown. I know the feeling of wanting your kid to succeed at something he or she cares about – then being there to witness it.

This mom, though, couldn’t get the ball over the plate as hard as she tried, so how could her kid develop any hitting skills?

Being a dad with a little experience at this under my belt, I decided to give five minutes of my time.

The mom looked at my gratefully. “Please!” she said.

When I was about the same age as this kid, my father played catch with me on the front lawn of our northern New Jersey home. We tossed a baseball back and forth, each throw smacking into our mitts. I was as happy as I’d ever been.

When I had my own son and daughter, we played pretty much every sport together – baseball, basketball, tennis. I would fling them a Frisbee or race them in the water at the pool. To this day I know they appreciate the fun times together, but as a parent I also got to see them develop in a variety of ways.

Kids relish play whether they’re age five or 15. It’s their language, their metier – and as a parent, the joy comes in witnessing their growth, their milestones, their accomplishments.

As the boy smiled at his triumph, I caught my wife’s expression: “There he goes again.”

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Last summer I was sunning myself poolside in Mystic, Connecticut with my wife and daughter when a boy of about 10 left his mother’s side, jumped into the water and started to toss a tennis ball in the air. With a friendly nod to his mom, I joined him in the pool and signaled for him to throw me the ball.

For about half an hour we played catch, this kid and I, in the cool water under the summer sun as our amused loved ones watched.

Now, at my neighborhood playground, I toss the ball over the plate and the kid belts a shot into left field. His mother’s jaw drops.

The boy wallops another one even further. Within minutes, he’s smacking every pitch.

His proud smile speak volumes.

“Thank you,” his mom says when we’re done. And she was there to see it.