When my wife and I had kids, people always told us how you would be amazed how quickly boys gravitate towards mom and girls do the same with dad. Yeah right, I thought, I work in sports for a living, my son’s gonna love me.
He does, but he will kick dirt on my shoes and shove me out of his way to get to his mom. Grrr.
Fortunately, since day one, my daughter’s really been a daddy’s girl. Maybe it’s because my schedule is/was flexible enough that it was always me driving her to ballet or gymnastics or soccer. Before her little brother was born, we’d probably spend at least one Saturday or Sunday a month going to the movies together or a zoo while mommy cooled her jets.
But a couple of weeks ago, she turned seven. She’s getting to be more girl by the day. Not in a bad way, but in a way that sort of shuts me out more than I’d care to. It reminds my of a column I wrote about a year ago, just before she started kindergarten.
We have this connection, one that will never go away, but one that is changing. Enjoy.
So my daughter starts kindergarten tomorrow. Chances are pretty good, someone in my house is going to be a blubberin’ mess. Maybe not “Hey, dad, are you ready to walk me down the aisle?” blubberin’ mess, but probably not too far off.
What’s that got to do with sports? Not a whole heck of a lot really, but you’ve got to remember, this kid’s been through the grinder with me.
A few years ago, I was fortunate to have a flexible enough schedule that she was able to go to a lot of events with me. Most weeks in the fall went like this: Girls soccer game on Monday, cross country or field hockey on Tuesday, boys soccer on Wednesday, home Thursday, football on Friday. Other than football, she was with me more than half of the time.
I’d set up my chair behind the goal of the old Danville soccer field, dump out a pile of coloring books and toys and it was game on, for both of us. I would sit and watch the game, she would use markers to make her legs look like rainbows.
On good days the coach’s daughter would come, too. They’d color, talk about life, you know, typical two-year old stuff. Eventually my wife would show up and take her home. I would get yelled at because my kid had 23 different colors on her legs.
Good parent: “You were watching, right?”
Ambivalent parent: “Watching? Watching what? Oh, yeah, I told her to stop.”
That was just the fall. We didn’t do too much in the winter because the games started too late, but the spring, it was more strollers and backpacks and snacks and baseball and track.
Oh, we love track. At the age of two, she wanted nothing more than to be the best long jumper in the world, not a realistic goal when you’re in the 15th percentile in height. When we would come home, she would run in the grass as fast as she could and leap, landing a record-breaking 2 feet, 3 inches away.
She and Danville track coach Jeff Brandt were practically on a first-name basis. If I showed up without her, I would get questioned.
This routine went on for a couple of years until I got my current gig. It was in another town, really put a crimp into our style, but it paid the bills.
So we had to find other interests. If there is a bigger five-year old — sorry, five-and-a-half-year-old — Bucknell basketball fan in the world, I have yet to meet them. She’s got a foam finger, a floating rubber ducky that looks like a basketball and says “Bucknell” on the front of it, a Bucknell T-shirt that almost fits me.
She begs and begs and begs to go to each game. She goes a couple of times a year, which is enough. She got to see Richmond two years ago and now, every time we make the drive on 15 to Lewisburg, she asks if we’re going to see the “Richmond Spiders.”
Every. Single. Time.
I don’t think it’s the basketball though. Just ask her why she likes Bucknell hoops and if the first word out of her mouth isn’t “popcorn” it’s probably “nachos.”
But hey, it’s father-daughter time, which is about to get cut in a big-time way. She’s starting to get “girl” interests, which don’t necessarily translate into “daddy” interests. I went to close her blinds the other day and stepped on four Barbies on the way to the window, which makes me wonder if my four-month old son will ever know about G.I. Joe or He-Man, or will they end up clad in pink, too? I sit down to watch the Phillies for five minutes and it’s “Dad, can you put on Strawberry Shortcake for me?”
I do, because I love her. And five minutes from now, she’ll be heading off to college.