Sunday, August 31, 2014

Why I Lied and Shattered My Daughter's Dreams

My daughter is a gymnast. She is also a soccer player, lacrosse player, pianist, tennis player, and soon-to-be swimmer. She's also seven.

She has a lot of energy and a lot of interests. She wants to do everything. But if you ask her, she'll tell you she's a gymnast.

She decided she was a gymnast--not just someone who takes gymnastics--last summer at camp. She became very dedicated and was excited to be invited to the pre-pre-team that practiced two hours rather than one. She got to wear the uniform. All in all, very exciting.

The coaches held a fun (i.e., somewhat pretend) meet for the little kids last spring. My kid loves competition, and she was hooked. She dreams of being on the team someday.

As we headed into summer, I was told that she would be bumped up to the pre-team. Pre-team meets twice a week for two hours each. I wasn't thrilled about the four-hour per week commitment, but I recognize that this--at least for now--is her passion, so I worked our schedule around her attendance.

On her last day of gymnastics camp in August, I stood with the coaches and began to fill out the fall enrollment forms. They told me that they wanted my daughter to join the team this year--the real team, where the girls wear the snazzy uniforms to real meets.

I am so proud of her hard work and accomplishment. I'm impressed that she achieved her goal, and I know she'll love being on the team. Someday.

But not now. I didn't even tell her she made it.

The gymnastics team practices twice a week. The practices are 6-9 p.m. No way.

My daughter is going into second grade, and her bedtime is 8 p.m. She is a delightful, engaging child who does well in school, has no behavior problems, and rarely gets sick. I attribute much of this to a consistent good night's sleep. No seven-year-old should regularly go to bed at 10 p.m. on a school night after three hours of intense athletic activity.

The time of day was a deal breaker, but I doubt I would have let her join the team even if it met right after school.

Six hours per week on a single sport that lasts the entire school year is too much at age seven. I love that my daughter has found something she loves, but I don't want her to specialize when she's a second grader. I want her to keep trying other things too.

When I told the coaches that she would not be joining the team and would instead do the pre-team class, they tried to persuade me. They have seen my daughter's drive to learn and improve, and they said that pre-team would be a lot of what she already can do with little opportunity to learn new skills.

That made me feel bad, because I know it's not the choice my daughter would make. But it didn't change my mind. It's my job as a parent to set limits for my children, even if I shatter their little kid dreams.

It feels lousy, but I know I made the right choice. My daughter is still a gymnast, but she's a lot of other things too. I plan to keep it that way for a while.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Less Colorful for Their Absence

In February 1997, I had been working at my first post-graduate, salaried job for six months. My parents were coming to visit me in Atlanta, and--because I finally could--I wanted to treat them to a nice evening out. I took them to my favorite restaurant and bought tickets to see John Denver at the Fox Theatre.

As a child of the 70s, I grew up listening to John Denver. His Greatest Hits album was among my first. I knew that I'd found a performance that all three of us were likely to enjoy and bought the best available seats.

We had a lovely evening. John Denver stood center stage with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a microphone, and his voice was as beautiful as it had been in my youth. We knew the words to every song.

Eight months later, John Denver died in a solo plane crash at the age of 53. When he died, I was surprised at the extent of my sadness. Singing along to his songs always made me happy, and losing the creator of that joy made the world a little less bright.

Until this week, only one other celebrity death made my heart ache for his absence. Jim Henson's death at 53 seemed to leave a hole in the universe. I grew up on Sesame Street and The Muppets, and his cast of characters are as familiar to me as old friends. Jim Henson made me laugh and created memories that will last a lifetime.

Every now and then, the death of a musician, artist, or entertainer strikes us in a more personal way. Certain talent shines brighter than others and casts a wider glow. Those artists do more than entertain us; they make our hearts a little fuller. When they leave us too soon, the world seems less colorful for their absence.

I am not the only audience member saddened by Robin Williams's death. His acting and comedic talents were extraordinary, and he gave many people the gift of laughter.

When the audience deeply feels the loss of an artist, the loss arises in direct proportion to their joy in his performance. Few performers have this effect on us. They are few and far between.

I'm thankful for all the artists who give to us by sharing their gift, and I'm sad when I must see them go. We lost another one this week.

Have you ever deeply felt the loss of a person you didn't know? If so, who?