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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

 

Buy Life Long Season Tix To Your Kid's Events

My parents got divorced when I was nine. My mom took my brother and me from Indianapolis back to Evansville, Indiana, to be near her family. She had a job as a secretary, no money, and two kids of the ages nine and six. She was paid by the hour.

I tried out for the sixth- grade basketball team when I was in fourth grade. Now, it seemed like the chances of a fourth grader making the sixth- grade basketball team at Stockwell Elementary School were even smaller than the Cubs’ chances of winning the World Series, but I made it! I couldn’t wait to tell my mom. She seemed even happier about it than I did, and believe me, I was grinning from ear to ear. My games were at 3:30 p.m. on weekdays. My mom’s job called for her to stay at work until 5:00 p.m. As a nine- year- old, I didn’t understand how leaving work early might affect her job security. All I knew was that I was on the sixth- grade basketball team!

Before our first game, I was terrified. I talked my mom into letting me buy some canvas high-tops with a baby blue colored "swoosh" on the side from a cool new shoe company named Nike. (it was 1979.). She obliged, even though we didn’t have the money. The shoes made me feel a step or two quicker, but they didn’t do much to calm my nerves. I had never played basketball in front of people before. I also had never played in front of my mom.

The day of our first real game, I walked down to the locker room after my last class and changed into my uniform. My hands trembled as I tightly laced up and re-laced my new Nikes three or four times. Our coach, Mr. Wilhelm, gave us final instructions. “Just relax and have fun, boys,"” he said. It was time to take the court in the first real organized basketball game of my life. We lined up in the hallway as we had practiced the night before. The warm- up routine ran over and over in my head: buddy bounce passes, three- man weave, zig zag defense, free shooting and free throws.

When coach gave us the nod, our team came running out of the hallway onto the court. My stomach was doing flips. I saw dozens of people, smelled the freshly popped popcorn, and heard the sounds of multiple basketballs striking the floor like bass drums. The moment I stepped foot onto the court, all of those impressions stilled for a moment. I was dumbfounded. All I could do was look around to find my mom. I forgot about buddy bounce passes and the three- man weave. I needed to find my mom. I had to have an eye on her. I frantically scoured the stands with my eyes. I looked up and down one side and saw nothing. Eventually, I looked across the gym and found her sitting in the second row, staring proudly at me with a huge smile on her face. I breathed a sigh of relief to myself. Being the laser-focused, nine-year-old hoops stud that I was, I couldn’t smile back. She knew this and didn’t take it personally. But inside, having her there was the most comforting feeling in the world for me. Mickey Mouse, President Carter, and Mister Rogers could have been sitting right next to her, and I wouldn’t have paid a bit of attention to them. I was just so incredibly happy to see my mom’s comforting smile and her undivided attention.

I didn’t realize then the sacrifice she had to make to come to my games. I’m sure she never realized how much it meant to me. As the sole breadwinner for herself and two kids, her job was very important. Yet somehow she knew that being at my basketball game at 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon transcended the importance of any job she could ever have. As a fourth grader on the sixth- grade team, I rarely stepped foot on the court. Still, my mom never missed a game--—home or away. I continued my involvement in athletics through high school earning five varsity letters in three sports. And my mom continued to be my most dependable fan throughout. It didn’t matter when or where the game was--she was there.

I know beating the slave-to-work ethos at the office is hard. But it’s the same as leaving on time. If you show that you have your work under control, and if you are manageing your time well, you’ll be able to exert more control over your schedule—and make it to your kid’s basketball game or Thanksgiving Day Pageant. Remember, your boss and your co-workers are often family people too. Do they really want you to miss out on your kid’s class play so that you can finish the monthly budget an hour and a half early? If so, then the whole office could use a priority check--—and maybe you’re the right person to bring the subject into focus.

I understand now the sacrifices my mom made to come to my events. Meetings, projects, business trips, and so on, all seem very important in the present moment, but you won’t remember any of these a year from now. You will, however, remember watching your kid at bat for the first time. You will remember your kid, dressed up as a pea, proudly representing one of the four food groups in the second- grade play. You will remember the class picnic you attended with your kid, which let you finally put a names to the faces of the his friends he’s talked about, and allowed you to now understand what he means when he talks about his teacher that looks like Mrs. Doubtfire. All of these memories of your kid’s day-to-day reality will be with you forever. And you can probably remember from your own childhood how important a parent’s involvement is from a kid’s perspective.

Sometimes I’ll go to watch at Little League baseball games and I’ll see a “busy” dad on his cell phone while his kid is in the game. I’m sure in the dad’s mind he doesn’t think the kid neither notices, knows nor cares. On the contrary, be assured that his kid (and your kid, in a like situation) probably both does know and care--—very much. Be your child’s biggest fan. Be there early. Cheer loudly. Watch them the whole time. Buy life-long season tickets to your kid’s events. You are building great memories on both ends and are teaching your child that they he or she is significant to you and to the world.

TO DO: Find out all of your kids’ extracurricular events that are scheduled in the next six months. Clear your calendar (travel included) so that you can attend every one of them.
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