“Daddy, did Mom tell you?” my 8 year-old daughter, Vivi, beamed – drawing my attention from the phone in my hand.
“No, honey, what’s up?” I was now fully attentive.
“My gymnastics coach said that I get to move up to the next level!”
My daughter’s joy was adorable – but unreturned.
I managed to smile, but stopped short of matching the cartwheels she began turning in the living room.
To call my reaction subdued is an understatement.
I know, I know – I shouldn’t feel this way so please, use the comment boxes below to brand me as a terrible, heartless, self-centered parent.
Before you do, though, let me explain.
First, 95% of my heart is doing a back-handspring in happiness for my daughter’s accomplishment. Of course, I want my kids to do what they love and do it well.
But, there is 5% of me that has been damaged – increasingly becoming immune to such immediate joy. That piece has been blackened by the ghosts of activities past and flattened by the thought that Vivi will likely never be Simone Biles.
I wonder if other parents have that same, 5% feeling?
I don’t think I’m alone, right?
After all, I feel at ease in this 5% if I acknowledge a few truths about our little savants excelling – at any activity from theater to dance to soccer to S.T.E.M.
Excelling is EXPENSIVE – and not only financially
The cost of children participating in “higher level” competition of any kind can be dizzying and, at times, exclusionary.
Sure, teams and schools offer grants and the ability to pay over time – but, let’s be real, activities are expensive no matter how you slice it.
In my case, much of my 5% feeling is driven by the additional financial obligations that are sure to come along with Vivi’s new-found love of the balance beam. In fact, after Vivi left the room, I swiftly looked at my wife and asked, “Did the coach tell you how much that advanced class is?”
Finding the dollars and cents to pay to play is one issue, but the time involved as kids become advanced in sports and activities is another cost – one that impacts everyone in the family.
One such non-financial cost for us recurs each day at around 5:30 pm.
You see, I love eating dinner with my wife and five kids – it’s one of our daily “things” that serve as a remedy for most frantic days. Those dinners, though, are different now – a rush to snarf down some wholesome foods before practice without time for the “how was your day” discussions we all used to have.
In fact, my oldest two have soccer at 6 pm and leave the table as the rest of us finish – they’re off to fill water bottles and find clean, intact socks.
My wife or I then leave the table next, dumping the dishes in the sink for later and grabbing the keys to the minivan. Those left behind finish up, clean up and, collectively, catch their breath.
Monday through Thursday, this is us. And, although, I’m not spending (or not spending) anymore (or less) cash on dinner, the cost of our hurried family meals is real.
Excelling requires that PARENTS excel too
I’ve never felt like I’m meeting all of my kids’ needs. Sure, I have a great family and kids, but it’s tough to do it all each day.
So, when the idea of adding more to our full family plate comes up, my inside’s cringe – causing the pace of that 5% part of my heart to quicken.
I try to fight it off – telling myself that we’ll find a way as we always do.
My aging, active children require me to step up and, often, I’m unsure if I’m capable.
So, you might ask, what do I do?
That day with Vivi and many other similar days with my soccer playing boys, I did the only thing I know how to:
I gave her a high-five, assured her that I’m so proud of her hard work and said that I can’t wait to see her try her best at the activity she loves.
I told Vivi that their mother and I will be in the front row cheering her on – win or lose.
I explained the commitment she is signing up for.
Yes, I’ll give her my all – even if that all is only 95% of me today.