For years, I quietly blamed my parents for not recognizing my tennis prowess, and hiring a Yugoslavian coach to verbally abuse/groom me into the Olympian I knew was hiding inside. They did the best they could, I would remind myself. My parents did sign me up for tennis lessons one summer. I could engage in quite a long rally with a boy my age, who was the star of the class, Chad Wright. I was good...ish. But I quit tennis when I found out a certain, not to be named boy, (Colby Stead) had only invited me to play doubles with him because he was hoping to see a little preteen booby bouncing. Seriously, this happened. It still creeps me out, Colby.
Anyway, back to my point. How do parents do it? How do they begin to know how to navigate the crazy amount of hobbies, sports, musical instruments and activities their kids can be learning and developing into talents?
A friend, just a week ago, told me that Jacob seemed to have some great wrestling moves when playing with her son and that I should think about signing him up for wrestling. Wrestling! As in...wrestling on a mat wearing those weird, low cut, men's swimsuits? You might as well ask me to sign him up for clogging. I just never thought about wrestling, other than not wanting to mess up his perfect ears. I don't want to push my kids toward sports, because that's what I tend to enjoy, when there is a whole, huge world of stuff out there I know nothing or very little about. And music, that overwhelms me. Jacob wants to learn how to play the piano, the drums and the guitar. He is seven and already too busy. Where should I start? I worry that cute, teenage boys who can play the drums will get a lot of attention from the girls, and maybe want to be in a band...and play gigs....with hooligans. Piano, let's do piano.
And then there is my little Eddie, who enjoys playing sports but athletics don't seem to come as easily to him as my other kids. I don't ever want him to feel inferior. Eddie, at the age of four, once watched an entire Men's Figure Skating routine and then enthusiastically told me "Sign me up for THAT!" Well, I still haven't signed him up for that. There is no ice skating rink in this county, or the next. And I worry because he already falls SO violently and SO often while walking. I hope I'm not depriving him of something he would love.
What if Michael Phelps mom had screwed that up? What if she never realized her sons' body was made specifically to swim freakishly fast and dolphin-like in an Olympic sized pool? What if she thought her sweet, little Mikey's gangly body would be best suited for basketball? Or what if, in his youth, she lazily thought it would be easier to buy a trampoline than drive him to swimming twice a week and deal with all that sunscreen and laundry. Honestly, did she luck out in directing her son towards his destiny, did God step in and push her in the right direction? I want to know, because I am a little worried I will screw this up.
My three year old daughter is at the age when dancing seems like a fun activity. I would love to watch Saren dance, I think she would enjoy it and be great. But I cringe to put her on a path that might lead to her eventually booty shaking to nasty rap lyrics during high school pep rallies. I just don't think I could watch that, because I'm a prude when it comes to my daughter! And I refuse to put make up on her beautiful face for SEVERAL more years. Sports, yes...sports it is. I think I might worry too much.
Today, Jacob told me he wants to have two jobs when he grows up. He wants to be a policeman AND a fireman. I guess sports are a good start down that career path for now. Eddie still wants to be a ninja. I hope he can make that into a career. Maybe we should look into karate lessons.
To Deborah Phelps and Pattie Bieber, I say "Bravo!". In the meantime, I'm hoping my children will figure out what they love to do and want to do, because it beats me. I would love to see my kids enjoying any path in life, creative or athletic, dramatic or analytical...I just want them to find their niche and be happy. I guess I have been able to do that, tennis dreams squashed and all...so I'm sure my kids will find their way too. At least that's what I will keep telling myself.