Like Father, Like Son, Like Baseball

I get Adam LaRoche. He loves his son, Drake, and wants to spend as much time with him as possible doing what he loves to do, play baseball. I also understand why the White Sox felt that after so many years of bringing a young child to the clubhouse everyday, it was time to scale it back. But in all I've read about LaRoche's decision to retire from the Chicago White Sox because they finally set limits on Drake's clubhouse visits, has anyone asked whether this practice was good for 14 year-old Drake?

It seems that Drake was a constant presence in the White Sox and Nationals clubhouses for the past few seasons which means that between the ages of 9-14 Drake has been going to work with his father instead of going to school. There is some indication he was home-schooled but many who were interviewed saw Drake at the clubhouse almost daily. LaRoche's own father Dave LaRoche also favored taking his sons to work, so there is family history here. And no one complained about Drake's behavior. He seems to be a great kid, and hasn't caused any trouble. In fact the players liked having him around and it's unclear exactly what prompted the ball club to change the clubhouse policy. But did any adult ever consider whether it was in Drake's best interest to spend so much time in an adult environment at his father's side, instead of being at school and with his own friends?

Each stage of a child's life sets an important milestone towards development and impacts how successfully that child grows up into adulthood. Children have developmental tasks to accomplish at each stage of life that prepare them for adulthood. Early childhood experiences center around the parents and immediate family, but at some point, usually around seven years of age, the outside world of school and peer friendships become just as important. At school, and within his own peer group, a child learns self-confidence and begins to develop a unique personality. He focuses on learning, building social skills and discovers his own preferences and abilities. This period of development -- called latency -- is a critical time of psychological development. As certain organic impulses of early childhood are quieted, he can focus on himself as a separate individual, and begin to prepare for life outside the family.

A boy who spends all his time with his father in a major league clubhouse environment lacks access to the opportunities for self-exploration and mastery of age-appropriate skills and social interactions. He is also exposed to a clubhouse environment that may be too provocative and stimulating for a boy his age. Some players reportedly felt uncomfortable and curtailed use of language and talking about private matters in his presence. This is the time in a child's life that benefits from quiet and calm so he can begin to discover who he is inside, and make choices that reflect his own emerging personality and preferences. He may decide that baseball is his life, but he needs the chance to make that choice independently and when he is ready.

I commend the White Sox for respectfully honoring the significant bond between this father and his son. I empathize with the difficulty of a parent to see less of a beloved child. But as a therapist, I understand how children develop and what they need to be the best adults they can be. Drake needs what all children need. The chance to be a child.