Thursday, 27 March 2014

Of Quitters, Winners, Whiners, and Sissies.

House rules in our joint dictate that barring any broken limbs, if you start an activity, you finish it, and if you don’t want to go back next year then you don’t have to. You can deal with any post-traumatic stress and repressed emotions in your 30’s like the rest of us. Bear witness to house league soccer, rep soccer, karate, piano lessons, power skating, lacrosse, terrain park skiing and mountain bike camp to name a few.  All cast aside to make room for the promise of more exciting pursuits. At this rate, we’ll be looking at purchasing a wing suit and base jumping lessons just to keep this child’s adrenalin up to acceptable levels.

Letting kids find their thing often seems to be harder on the parents than any of the kids who are actually doing the thing. After going through a heartbreaker with lacrosse one year, I realized how easy it is to turn into an overbearing tiger-mom. Case in point: boy picks up a lacrosse stick for the first time at a skills camp in March, starts the season in April and by July is among the league leaders in points. He’s making the players around him better, he’s seeing the floor in a way the others aren’t and seemingly scoring at will. Then he goes to lacrosse camp in August and wins the coaches award. Well that was all the encouragement I needed.

In my mind, we’re just 8 short years away from a full scholarship at Cornell University. I can see him now, number 11 out on the field among the storied Big Red lacrosse team, smashing those pesky Princeton Tigers to smithereens. Mrs. Rock and Roll Librarian and I will come down on weekends to watch games and bask in the social elitism only an Ivy League school can provide.

Instantly I knew we needed to get him into field lacrosse because that’s the American game. This is where I was cut off at the knees.

“Dad, I don’t think I want to do lacrosse next year”

“What? Why not? You’re awesome at it.” I say through the tears. My tears I mean.

“It’s too rough. I don’t like all the slashing and getting hit from behind.”

“But…how will I ever get to Cornell?” I’m really crying now.

I had hoped perhaps I wouldn’t pass the sissy gene on to the boy but no such luck. Getting cross checked into the boards is not my idea of a good time either, but I thought maybe he would be tougher than me.

“You know, field lacrosse is not nearly as rough as box lacrosse” I say weakly, knowing my dream of living vicariously through the boy is about to evaporate before my eyes. That was a tough one to let go, however briefly it tempted me.

And now, a long basketball season is winding down and spring ball hockey is ramping up, creating an inevitable showdown that threatens the tenuous balance between the two sports. Fate has cruelly intervened to complicate things as the two activities fall on the same night. To make matters worse, the boy is captain of the basketball team, and as such, he needs to be at every practice to demonstrate his commitment and leadership skills. Problem is that we have reached basketball saturation and have become giddy with anticipation of a fresh ball hockey season.

“Do I have to go to basketball practice?”

“Yes. You only have two practices left, and then you can concentrate on ball hockey.”

Cue mumbling under breath, eye rolling and dramatic slamming of objects. I know it’s immature of me, but it’s the only communication they understand.

What we don’t want is for one activity (in our case, basketball) to drag on so long that it becomes a chore. It’s a balance of finding the fun and still showing your stick-to-it-ness. If the kid really wants it, then presumably, they’ll roll with the ups and downs and do it. If they want to move on after the season is over, then in my books that’s fine. I guess that’s how you get well-rounded offspring who can go from band practice to swim practice and all points in between.

So far, we’ve been lucky in that he hasn’t shown any interest in the drum kit that resides in our basement, or asked for bagpipe lessons. I’m sure I can handle driving to tournaments 2 hours away better than I can handle the screech of the pipes.

Don’t get me wrong. Every day I count myself lucky to have a great kid who is athletic and smart and interested in a multitude of things, including the not so desirable stuff like video games and junk food. So what if he has dashed my dreams of being the dad to a Cornell student? At least I’m not the dad to a mid-season quitter.


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