Mickey Mantle, infielder for the New York Yankees, warms up on April 1951. (AP File Photo)

Correction: This story was updated Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, at 7 p.m. to correct the spelling of Mickey Mantle's name.

One day, two life lessons.


Last Sunday afternoon I was grading papers for my college class when our 18-year-old son appeared at the dining room door.

"Daddy, how much can you get out of an ATM machine in one day?" he asked.

I'm used to these out-of-the-blue questions from the boys.

"I don't know," I said, never looking up. "I think about $200."

"OK," he said, and then he turned to walk away.

This happens a lot with boys. They ask questions without giving you the full context. It usually means something is eating at them.

"So why do you need the money?" I called out. "What's up?"

"One of my friends texted me about a baseball card he saw at an estate sale downtown," he said, "and I was thinking about buying it.

"For how much?" I said.

"A thousand bucks," he answered.

I gulped.

"OK, well tell me more," I said, trying to keep an open mind.

He explained that it was a 1957 Mickey Mantle card graded as a 7 on a 1-10 scale. He showed me comps on eBay in which similar cards had sold for about $1,800 in the last few months. I'm not sure he even knew who Mickey Mantle was.

"But you don't know anything about baseball cards," I said.

I immediately felt remorse.

My son has developed a talent for flipping merchandise — car parts, sneakers, etc. — without an ounce of help from me. To him, this was merely a business opportunity with a nearly certain payoff. The market is the market.

"You could always write a check," I said. "You've got the money in the bank."

"You think they'll take a $1,000 check from an 18-year-old?" he said.

Good point.

"How about I go to the sale with you," I said. "Would you want me to do that?"

"Yeah, kind of," he said.

Long story short, we went to the sale in Riverview and inspected the card. Buying it would have depleted his savings, and in the end, he decided to pass. But I'm glad we went.

Risk-taking, when it's based on solid research, is a trait I want him to continue to develop. As a risk-adverse person myself, I know there's a real down side to allowing yourself to be ruled by an oversized fear of failure.


Later the same day, my 13-year-old son asked if I wanted to measure him on the wall in honor of his recent birthday. Like a lot of families, we have one place where we have plotted the boys' heights at different ages.

Our 13-year-old hasn't fully hit puberty yet, so his height gain wasn't dramatic this year. I tried to make his up-to-date height, but my hand slipped and the line on the door frame came out crooked.

"Here let me help," he said, taking the Sharpie from my hand and trying to straighten out the line. He had his tongue out.

When he finished there was double line.

"Well, we sort of made a mess of that, didn't we?" I said.

"I'm sorry, Daddy," he said, looking defeated.

"No, no, no," I protested. "I mean this line right here, the one we just drew. This is my very favorite mark on this whole door frame. Do you know why?"

I expected him to say "no," but instead what he said was music to my ears.

"Yes, I know why. Because it's not perfect, and we prefer things that are not perfect. Right, Daddy?"

"Yes, indeed we do," I said beaming.

Sometimes as parents, we wonder if our kids absorb what we say. Sometimes God gives us these golden moments when we know, without question, that the answer is yes.

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Mark Kennedy

Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645.