Tuesday, June 19, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: Father's Day and Father's Doom

As always with FTT O-T, it's a big wide Internet and this isn't going to be entirely about sports. Scrolll, bail, just don't pule. Oh, and click on the ads and order a T-shirt on your way out.

Yesterday was Father's Day, a holiday that held nothing but a gritted jaw and hollow laugh for me for the first 30 years of my life, but has rebounded quite nicely in the last 12. The eldest got me an adorable gift of four oversized poker chip sofa pillows, which are making the Man Cave look even better, as if such a thing were possible. The youngest got me a new holster for my cell phone, because she's at the age where seeing her gifts used every day makes her very happy. We took a walk as a family, went to the dog park, I read to them at bedtime, and this wasn't all that extraordinary of a day. I do well with fatherhood; I take the job seriously and it keeps me grounded.

Today, I got to experience the other side of it: the keening, impossibly helpless side.

The eldest is a gymnast, and loves it. Unfortunately, she also came to it relatively late in life (age 10), but since she's a Shetland Human like myself, this really isn't that big of a problem... or, you would think such things. Now that she's 12, she's done this long enough to reach a certain standing, and she's in exceptional physical shape; the kid's got washboard abs and is all kinds of wiry. I'm far from an impartial eye, of course, but in every class she's been in for the last 3+ months, the gym we've been taking her to has had her demonstrating the exercises to the less experienced girls. They've also been talking about promoting her, and when she tried out for the rec league team 9 days ago, she looked a lot better than most of the other kids. Again, I'm not impartial, but you can tell when a kid is in control of her body and can move with speed, and when they can not.

The tryout results were supposed to be told to us in 7 days; instead, they were told in 9. She wasn't selected. We got a form letter email rejection.

The semester is ending, and she got her report card... that more or less says the same thing that it's said for the past two periods. With a five word comment. "Keep up the good work!" No promotion. Keep doing the same thing you've been doing for the last 4 months. Probably because you are 12, and nothing more.

No point about what needs to get better; no clue on what needs to happen for her to progress, no sense that her participation has been valued at all, beyond the money we can pour into the place to keep her running in sand.

Now, the eldest is sensible: she has no dreams of Olympic glory, no hissy fit of having to be on the team, no drama of quitting the sport because of a series of setbacks. This is who she is and what she does, and I suspect she'd be happy teaching low-level work to kids for decades, in that her current professional dreams are in the Teacher phase. (So much that she's working out a Summer School situation for her younger sister and a neighbor kid. It's nine kinds of adorable, really.)

But she's pretty good at knowing when she's being jerked around. Which, of course, happens to everyone who plays sports, whether it happens at 12 or 16 or 19 or 25 or 32 or 41.

Eventually, someone will tell you that your services are not required or desired, and that what you dreamed of doing isn't going to happen. That's part of the reason why we teach kids how to play sports, after all; it teaches them many lessons, not the least of which is living with disappointment.

And the lesson for Dad?

That the power he used to have to fix problems and make things better... is finite.

Very, very finite.

And a little more today.

Sorry, kiddo. I can't make people who are jerking you around stop jerking you around. I can't make them be straight with you about what happens next, or if you've hit your ceiling in your sport, or if you are of more use to them as the camp body or demo model to the up and comers.

But how about this...

Want to come check out some other gyms?

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