Growing up, my family was somewhat poor. Both of my parents worked, but their incomes were meager. As a family of four, we survived on one car, one car! I can remember my mom, my brother, and I walked everywhere. My dad needed the car more than we did most of the time. So, it is difficult for my children to understand what life was like for me. They have so many more opportunities than I ever had, and my husband and I made that a goal of ours. Although their experiences often leave me fatigued and questioning myself, in the end, I am glad that I can offer my children experiences I never had as a child or teen.
We owned one television set in our home, and it was one of those bulky floor models that did not come with a remote control. One literally had to rise out of a chair to change the channel. And, guess what? Usually, my dad relied upon my brother or myself for this task. He worked all day and was tired. Watching sports was his reward. As a young girl, I watched hockey, baseball, basketball, and football. However, anything we watched revolved around all Philly teams. My husband, though, was grateful to my father for raising a daughter who understood all aspects of the sports he too enjoyed. As an athlete myself, my experiences were limited. I was very involved, but the sports choices were not as numerous as they are today. For example, my school did not even have girls’ soccer. We did have field hockey, but you could only try out for a team in high school. That did not offer much of an opportunity to build the skills necessary to be highly successful. My younger brother ended up being the natural athlete, so I ran track and cross country. I also joined the cheerleading squad. My dad was a bit old-schooled in the sense that certain sports were male sports. Plus, I really was not as talented as my brother in basketball or softball. I accepted my abilities and fared well in the sports in which I engaged.
I am happy to say that today young girls have so many more choices. I’m not sure I agree with starting girls on soccer at the age of three, but my husband and I did just that. We did not want either girl to fall behind the others. So, both girls began their athletic journeys in soccer, gymnastics, and dance. Our girls are two-and-a-half years apart, so their involvement did include–and still does– some juggling of time on our part. We would never survive as a one-car family! As time progressed, each girl formed her own personality and decided which activities she wanted to continue and which she wanted to surrender. The older daughter no longer enjoyed either soccer or dance/gymnastics. The younger daughter stuck with both for a bit but eventually kept soccer while discarding dance/gymnastics. These decisions left our older daughter with a dilemma. Our family rule is two-fold: 1. Neither child may quit in the midst of an activity and 2. Each child must participate in at least ONE activity, just to maintain some sort of exercise and team unity.
So, our oldest thought about the situation and came to us one night and said, “I want to try swimming.” Swimming is a great sport but one that posed a problem for us. Our rural school does not have a pool. Neither my husband nor myself attended a school with a pool, so our knowledge of swimming was quite limited. We started investigating and found an aquatic club she could join 40 minutes from our home. Yes, it was quite a hike, especially when practices are three nights a week and meets are every Saturday and sometimes Sunday. However, we decided to make the sacrifice. Our daughter was nine at the time. She is now thirteen and entering high school. So, even though her school has neither a pool nor a swim team, she is able to attend meets at the school 40 minutes away in order to swim for time and try to qualify for league and state meets. Our youngest also decided to try swimming and is still participating. My husband and I learned the sport quickly and have become very active in swimming. Swimming is a lifetime sport that our girls can incorporate into their lives, even if they never take their participation beyond the high school level. We have taken them to meet numerous Olympic swimmers, including Michael Phelps. I never imagined I would become such an avid fan of swimming, but both my husband and I have added swimming to our list of favorites.
Just as we have added swimming, we have also thrown in soccer. My husband played soccer as a kid and for two years in high school. As I mentioned previously, my school had a boys’ soccer team back in the early 90’s but not a girls’ soccer team. So, yet again, I was introduced to another new sport. I embraced soccer but did not quite grasp all of the rules and plays. Thus, at games, my husband would yell at me, stand away from me, send me texts, and shoot me evil looks when I yelled at our daughter. He told me, “If you want to yell, at least know what you’re yelling. You sound foolish.” He was right–please do not tell him I admitted that one. Anyone, this year, I watched every single World Cup women’s soccer game. I can name every player on the U.S. team and have really come to enjoy watching women’s soccer. I think I watched more games than anyone else in my family. I learned about offsides–which I never understood–and I picked up the term “set pieces.” I think that is the correct term. Anyway, I told my husband that I am ready to cheer this season, now that I am equipped with knowledge and terminology! I became a very loyal fan of Hope Solo and Julie Johnston. In fact, my little one has her very own replica Solo jersey and said she hopes she can play like Julie Johnston this year. Don’t get me wrong–I love the entire team, but these two women play positions similar to those of my daughter. Through my daughters, I am learning so much!
That leads me to another new sport for me. In middle school my oldest daughter joined the field hockey team. I again had to learn a new sport and new rules. She enjoyed the sport for two years, but she’s not the most aggressive child. So, this year, as she approaches high school, we have moved on to golf. As a 13-year-old, she has a mighty swing. Her professional golf trainer informed us that she can hit the ball 200 yards no problem. I was super impressed. I won’t lie; I have always deemed golf to be boring. Yet again, through my kids, I was proven wrong. My husband took my daughter to two days of the Woman’s PGA Golf Tour in Lancaster, PA, and she loved it. She came home with about ten autographs, including big swingers such as Michelle Wie, Inbee Park, and others. Her excitement caused me to tune in to the rest of the tournament, and now I’m following golf! I found myself researching the players and learning all about the sport! NEVER would I have pictured myself as one to become involved in the sport of golf. Children change one’s perspective on so many aspects of life. I love becoming excited with my girls, and I will learn whatever I must to be just as enthusiastic about whatever it is that they enjoy. High School golf has already begun, and the first match is just weeks away. I am really pumped to see what my daughter can do. She is the only girl on her school’s team, and one of only a handful in our entire league.
Before I finish, I cannot forget to mention what the girls have taught me musically. As a child, I tried the violin, but I was not adept at reading music. To me, reading music is difficult. Somehow, both of my girls picked up the knack for it. My oldest played the flute for four years but is giving it up as she enters high school. Although her choice saddens me, I support her. My youngest plays the clarinet, the snare drums, the ukulele, and the guitar. Their talents amaze me greatly. Both girls sing in the chorus program at their schools. My husband and I divide and conquer quite a bit so that they are able to pursue their dreams, talents, desires. And, as I said, Yes, there are times when I feel absolutely drained. But, I would not give up the experiences and opportunities they have gained through the various sports, music, and other endeavors they have attempted. I myself have grown through them and feel that I will continue to do so.
I think one of the funniest aspects of all of this is the transformation that has occurred in my father, the girls’ grandfather. I can guarantee that during my childhood years, he would never have 1. taken me to so many activities and 2. would never have come to swim meets, golf outings, musical performances, etc. My 9th grade year of high school, I performed in the high school’s musical which ran for four nights. My dad showed up to one and informed me that he would not attend another. Both of my girls performed in their fifth grades musicals, and he attended EVERY show. It is indeed amazing what our children are able to accomplish but even more astounding what their accomplishments are able to bring out in the adults around them. I am so proud of my girls and will continue to support their endeavors, no matter how exhausted I may feel. I just hope they never give up their desire to constantly try and learn something new. I truly believe learning is a lifelong process, and I want them engaged in that process always.