Tag Archives: lacrosse

Aleida

I just spent this past Sunday with my 7 year old daughter at a lacrosse tournament. She was playing with the 3rd and 4th grade girls team, invited because their numbers were thin and she’s tall (and quite coordinated) for her age – and I was asked to help coach. I worried a little that the age/skill difference (and the fact that she had never played a real game before) might make her shy/pensive/un-assertive. Quite the contrary. She had a ball, and I found myself uncharacteristically silent several times throughout the day, just watching her run, laugh, scowl and chase the fast-break, take a breather on the side-line with her goggles on her forehead and a Gatorade in hand. At those specific moments, had I tried to offer some sort of instruction or encouragement, I’m sure my voice would’ve cracked (that’s a no-no, by the way. No emotional stuff, dad.). I did holler though when she scored a goal, her first, and my voice cracked like puberty had made a comeback.

The last couple days I’ve been thinking about how far she’s come from the pudgy bundle we brought home that cool Virginia November almost 8 years ago. Throw in any number of Coldplay, Dave Matthews, Augustana, Jeff Buckley or Nick Drake tunes that happen to be playing on my iTunes and voila! I’m suddenly up to my eye-balls in nostalgia. We had Aleida while I was in grad school at George Mason for poetry. A good deal of my writing was about my every-day…trying to make connections between my past and my present. Having our first child made for a pretty deep pool of “writing matter.” Here’s a section from my master’s thesis (a book-length poem about fatherhood, fishing and the landscape(s) of America) that I just re-discovered, in which I talk about Aleida:

[34]

Most pools have been filled in with concrete to keep
kids from swimming. Suckers run in fractional numbers.
Land around the cemetery has been cleared. Wooded places,
have been cleared that used to feel as if, in being there,
your steps were the first. Dogs are not allowed.
Plots are allowed only two arrangements per—
tasteful, modest arrangements.

Dad took my daughter to look for suckers this spring.
In a small piece of slack-water above the fourth bridge
they found three fat lakers holding in the shade.
He lifted one toward my daughter, her eyes wide
& then wider, the fish working its mouth, waving its tail
back & forth. Not sure what to make of this creature,
she screamed when she touched it, laughed her child-laugh,
wiped her hands on her pants as dad returned the fish to the water.

Yep, connections between my past and my present. Fatherhood, much like fishing or poetry I’m realizing, is about paying attention to the small things…before those small things grow up and head into the current of their own life.

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Practice

My kids are beginning their journey into sports. Lacrosse, soccer, wrestling, football, basketball, golf, backyard whiffleball… the list goes on. At 8, 6 and 4 respectively, they’ve got more moxie and swagger, head-fakes and highlight-reel moments than I had when I was…well…ever, actually.

As much as I love looking through their school-work when I get home — handwriting exercises, math problems, reading responses, random crayon drawings and watercolor paintings — as a dad, my heart soars when I pull in the driveway and I’m greeted by “Daddy! Daddy’s home! Wanna play catch?!”

In truth, I was lousy at sports and school as a kid, and only realized success at both as an adult. That could be why my wife and I loosely agree on the importance of their involvement in sports in school. She tends to agree with the in-game commercial from the NCAA that says “Most of us will go pro in something other than sports,” while I tend toward “that’s fine, and most-likely true, so you better go play your ass off till you’ve gotta wear a tie.”

So when my youngest says “watch this!” and pitches a golf ball over the fence into the neighbor’s yard…when I pass the rock to my oldest who can now make baskets on our neighbors regulation hoop…when I toss a football to my 6-year-old and he takes five steps back and throws a pretty darn good spiral…I let go of a laugh that starts in my soul, carries with it every hope, fear, anxious moment, expectation, disappointment and glorious success I’ve experienced in life. I laugh and jump in the air with my hands up. They run to me for high-fives and I holler things like “what a shot! I don’t think that’s coming down!” and “at the buzzer for 3!” and (of course) “touchdown!”And they smile their perfect 8, 6, and 4-year-old smiles, turn their swagger up a notch and we play some more.

I feel like I’m doing something right…which, as most dads will understand, is huge. I’m constantly amazed by their natural ability to “get it.” They’re learning confidence, fair play and respect. They fail, fail again and then finally figure it out. They cheer each other on. They’re learning about the value of persistence and practice. All great things to bring with them to school.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what they go pro in. Lord knows I’m still trying to figure it out for myself. I just hope they enjoy the journey as as much as the destination(s).

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Filed under Fatherhood and venison jerkey