There are slender instances that occur to you as a parent that serve as the quietest of all epiphanies. I say quiet, because for the most part they are the kinds of experiences that you wouldn’t dare share with others. While we all have them, at least I assume I am not alone here, we suffer in silence afraid that any admission of being anything less than a super parent would shatter the image we try so hard to portray in the public eye, especially those of us who live in small towns.
Despite our futile attempts to fool the world, we all have these moments. I know this because we are human and by our very nature we are fallible. Prone to fits of frustration, comical delusions of grandeur, and even the occasional third glass of wine that acts as a time machine to our early twenties before the desperate fog of responsibility rolled over our modest suburban homes. Still holding tight to that ugly lie that leads us all to believe that parenthood comes with an elixir for instant maturity? OK, fair enough. But humor me here. Ask yourself this one question. Does this sentence sound familiar? “But they are all going out for more drinks and we hardly ever get out of the house!” Yeah, I thought so. Don’t worry, it only means you’re human. Anyways, your more practical, less mature side gave in two hundred words ago.
Now that we’ve worn away the shiny veneer of omnipotence from our parenting costumes, I’d like to share one of the more perplexing epiphanies I’ve had during my eight years as a father. This past Spring my two children who are able to walk upright started to take notice of the basketball hoop in our driveway. This illumination wasn’t overly surprising when it came to my son; after all he had been asking about it since Christmas. But when my eight year old daughter, who is more of a dancing queen than jump shot princess, asked to play as well a faint feeling of incredulous joy careened through my mind.
When the next nice day arrived my upright walkers and I sauntered out to the driveway for what I assumed would be a short round of hoops. Despite my son’s enthusiasm, he is barely over two years old. Truthfully anything more than him chewing on the basketball would have been impressive to me. As for my daughter, I’d be lucky if her first inclination wasn’t to ask me for a lift in the air to be closer to the rim. Now that I have a chance to read my thoughts on paper, I realize that I seem harsh, but like I said I am human and therefore prone to fallibility.
As expected my son grabbed one of the two available basketballs and began to run around like a person made of honey being chased by bees and cartoon bears. At first I thought he had somehow set himself on fire, but I soon realized that his frantic way of sprinting was god given and I could put the pail of water down. With the brief moment of mania behind me I shifted my focus to my eight year old who had spared no time in getting down to work. To my surprise she was doing well, in fact she was doing more than well. She had hit three out of her first four shots!
“You’re even using the glass!” I said in amazement.
“What does that even mean daddy?” She asked
“Well you’re using the backboard sweetheart.”
“OK, but I don’t know what that is.” She said continuing to shoot.
Watching her succeed in such a manner set my parenting synapses flying. A “good” parent would tell you they were just proud to be a part of that moment. And while I was extremely proud, the truth of the matter is this; I did what every parent who isn’t a self-righteous liar did. Like a cunning tactician, I schemed, I plotted, and I planned for my daughter’s career as a WNBA super-star. Questions began to twist around in my head.
“Was she in the ninetieth or the ninety-fifth percentile for height during her last checkup?”
“Would she be able to dunk like that girl from Baylor?”
“Would I be willing to wear a WNBA hat around? C’mon it’s not as bad as hockey right?”
Sadly, I was doing what I had done repeatedly over the last eight years. The second she demonstrated interest or ability in a specific area, I began romanticizing about her future acumen. I like to assume that we all do this, although I suspect it’s a trait found predominantly in fathers. I have no proof to that fact except to say that I am a male and I have been guilty of this on more occasions than my female counterpart.
There is an unspoken truth about being a parent, one that even when pressed to admit many of us wouldn’t. Despite our war torn souls and aged faces at heart we are still children; still holding tight to the thought that the future holds something more magical than the average nine to five we ended up with. Admit it guys, during that flag football game with your buddies you’re still pretending to be Barry Sanders, looking for that scout who thinks you have what it takes regardless of how slow your knees have become. It’s the same reason ladies of all ages rediscover that childish glow every time a Disney Princess graces the screen in our living rooms. It’s juvenile, it’s embarrassing, it’s awful to admit but despite all of those things, I think it makes us better parents. Just don’t tell your kids!
Last week my daughter began organized basketball for the first time in her life. The night before her first practice she and I spent time together shopping for the perfect pair of basketball sneakers. To her it was a rather innocuous night out with her father, but to me it was so much more. She wasn’t a WNBA super-star, not yet anyways, but I was so honored to be with her. Privileged to be the man to buy her the first pair of sneakers she would play organized basketball in, just like my dad had done for me some twenty two years ago. Back then I would have given anything to be Michael Jordan. But on nights like that one, no matter how average I feel, I know there is nothing better than getting to be a dad.
My upright walkers and I ventured into Fred Large gymnasium the next morning moderately prepared for what the day had to offer us. Never having played team basketball before my daughter was fraught with uncertainty. I gave her a quick hug assuring her that everything was going to be OK.
“You even know how to use the glass” I said flashing a knowing smile.
“OK daddy.” She said as if she were trying to make me feel better.
My son, busy doing the skeleton dance from Hotel Transylvania looked as worried as a Rastafarian Medicine Man listening to a Bob Marley album. I just smiled, silently assured that I had a ringer on my side.
“Those rims are only seven feet high. I wonder if she is going to dunk on someone today or wait until next practice?” I thought to myself as they began to warm up.
And then it happened.
“Oh shit.” I mouthed nearly letting the words escape my mouth.
They all could shoot and they were even using the glass!
The quiet epiphanies of parenthood, I guess we all have them. Just don’t tell your kids!