Slow Dog - Belly (mp3)
Pretty Deep - Tanya Donnelly (mp3)
Good modern-age parenting requires that parents choose at least two or three regular child-centered activities where the parent's sole responsibility is to transport said children to and from said activity. During said activity, the supreme modern parent attentively views their child's participation; the modestly decent parent fills time with book-reading or phone-talking; and the subpar parent just drops 'em off and picks 'em up.
The line of demarcation has changed significantly in the last 30 years. When I was in elementary school, playing baseball and taking piano lessons, my parents were considered on the higher end merely for paying the fees and driving me. In my seven years of actually playing baseball (as opposed to sitting on the bench and pinch hitting once the game was decided), my parents might have watched two dozen games. And by "my parents" I mean one of them. One year my team (the Reds) made the finals of the playoffs and both of them showed up. That was almost an aligning of the planets kind of event. I won the game with one of those miracle catches that can only be made by someone who is on the verge of a nervous breakdown and whose skills are very much in question. That is to say, I took a routine fly ball and turned it into a miracle basket catch that found me falling backward and basically flipping over.
On the one hand, you'd think maybe a parent would witness this and say, "Holy shit. I've been missing some incredible drama!" But on the other hand, if you were my parents, you'd say, "Holy shit. There's 99 ways Billy could have screwed that up, and we witnessed the one time he managed to find success. Maybe we should quit while we're ahead."
Below, and on Thursday, I will offer some random thoughts and observations inspired by yet another season of swimming, organized in subheads for your simpler reading pleasure. [I'm technically on vacation this week, drinking massive amounts of alcohol while also totally being responsible with the supervision of my children. So if anything below or on Thursday fails to make sense, I blame it on all of that.]
BAD MATH: SWIMMING'S MISERABLE TIME "R.O.I."
When it comes to being great athletic supporters for their kids, several of my closest friends are, in this particular portion of the Standardized Parental Aptitude Test, supreme. They score in the high 700s on this part. Granted, all three I'm thinking of are baseball parents to boys. But I work with and am friends with a man who scores a full-on 790 or 800 on this portion no matter what sports his daughter or son play. Soccer, baseball, swimming, running, whatever.
But I gotta buck up and accept a change in the culture. So. When it comes to supporting your child's sporting adventures, attitude is about 70% of the battle. Knowing enough to be useful and advisory (but not knowing too much, which can be detrimental) is another 10%. And the environment -- the coach, the other parents, the other kids -- is the 20% you can't control.
But dammit, I'm so much better as a soccer parent or as a basketball parent. With those events, even if your kid isn't a starter, their performance and play relates quite directly to what those other kids are doing on the field/court. And if your kid is playing, then you can totally train your focus on your kid. But with swimming? Or wrestling? Or gymnastics? With individual sports like this, you're investing three or four hours of your life to watch your child perform a grand total of maybe two or three minutes. The rest of the time, you sit around trying to act like you give one rat's ass about the other kids who are swimming, including that 17-year-old boy who's wearing swim briefs so small you think he might have stolen them from your 7-year-old daughter.
Thus the Great Paradox of Sports Support #1: I will be vigilant about making sure my daughters know that participation in team sports is not all about them. The team does not revolve around them, but rather vice-versa. However, when it comes to observing your child's team sport, it's totally OK to be all about your own kid. It's a paradox, but I don't believe it's hypocrisy.
To be continued on Thursday...
Tanya Donnelly was the lead singer of Belly before venturing off on her own. The first is from the album Star, and the second from Lovesongs for Hangovers. Both can be found at iTunes or Amazon.com.