So today, Mark McGwire admitted that he really did use performance-enhancing drugs when he beat the home-run record. And once, again, here we all are back at the, "Ooops, sorry we idolized you sports star guy" moment.
It got me thinking back to a conversation I had a few months ago.
I got into a bit of a debate with a guy who I happened to work with on a work project a few months ago. (He doesn't work with me at work, so all you work friends no need to wonder if this is someone you know.)
And I find myself thinking about our conversation quite a bit still to this day. While it was one of the most overt, over-the-top conversations I have had, it wasn't the first. I hear this line of comments and questioning often.
He asked me how old my kids were. At that point, the older two were 7 and 6. His next question was "Wow, all boys. And getting to 'that age.' So have your lives been turned upside down by sports yet?"
I told him, no, not really. That they played soccer and basketball through the local community education program. They did swimming and tennis at summer camp. They occasionally would go to the golf course/driving range with their dad. And that was about it.
He was stunned. He actually had to stop and think for a minute before saying, "You know, if you don't get going on this soon, it's going to be too late."
What? My kids are going to die from lack of sports programming? Will their muscles atrophy if we limit them to their current load. Too late? Seriously?
Me: Too late? Too late for what?
Him: Too late to be competitive!
Me: Oh, well, I guess we're not too worried about that.
Him: Really, because you should be. I hope you've at least taught them to skate by now? Cause if not, there is no hope of them playing hockey.
Me: Nope, we actually intentionally didn't teach them to skate because we didn't want hockey to rule our lives.
He looked at me like I was certifiably insane.
Him: Well as long as you accept that they are ruining their chances.
Me: Their chances? Of what?
Him: Of being competitive! Of getting on a traveling team. Of moving past the community education leagues.
Now I was the one who was stunned.
And why is that an issue? Growing up, I was the clumsy, severely asthmatic girl who instead focused her efforts on theater, speech and writing classes. Oh yeah, and school. My husband was the same. Well, less clumsy and not at all asthmatic and male. But otherwise, just the same.
And I think we both did just fine, thankyouverymuch.
I know we live in a pretty obsessed sports culture. I get that. But one thing we have taught our kids since early on, it's that sometimes our culture has some pretty screwed up priorities. We pay teachers and police officers poorly, but if you can swing a stick at a ball and get it to go into a hole, and do it really well, you can be a millionaire.
Just the other day I had to explain to them why the President of the United States doesn't earn a million dollars a year doing his (or someday, her) job. I explained that the issue is that if they were paid that amount of money, it might look, to the rest of us citizens, that they were doing it for the wrong reason. That they were doing it for the money.
To which one of my kids asked back, "So do you think professional athletes are just doing it for the money?"
And you know, that's a really good question. Sure, they love the game. You'd have to, right? Maybe. But what if being a professional athlete meant you got paid a teacher's salary? Would it still be as sought after as it is now?
And so I ask, what exactly are we ruining their changes of? Of becoming the next Tiger Woods or Mark McGwire? No thanks (and I would have said that before the holidays, too).
Of getting a college scholarship? I wouldn't bank on that regardless. So I'll just keep putting money in their college savings plan.
Of playing in high school? Again, didn't do that and I turned out okay. Sure I never got a letter jacket cause it would have looked downright ridiculous with just the academic, newspaper and theater patches on it. But otherwise, I think I came out just fine.
My kids like sports, and they love to watch, talk about and play sports. But that is what it is for them. Play. It is fun. It's a game. And that's how I want it to stay. If they show a specific interest of aptitude, we will support that.
And we had a family to be a family. Not to just be chaperones or drivers or financiers to our kids and their activities. I know things will get busier. And our kids will have more activities as they get older. And we'll miss more dinners and spend more time in the car. I get that.
But I am not going to hurry it. And I am not going to force it. (That goes for my far more cerebral/geeky extra-curiccular activities, too.) My kids can decide what they want to play and how much they want to play of it.
But there is one thing that is certain, it will always be play.
And I am sure they will turn out just fine.
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