Being a father is my life. It basically consumes every drop of my existence, and has for the past 17 years. If you have kids, you know what I am talking about. If your kids are involved in sports or other activities, you are eternally caught in a constant merry-go-round of try-outs, practices, games, tournaments, etc. Meals are on the fly, conversations take place in minivans, and weekends are fueled by popcorn, soda, and whatever baked goods the concession stand is peddling. You celebrate the good plays, provide some gentle guidance at opportune times, and spend most time lending a comforting voice and shoulder to disappointment.
There have been a couple titles that have come out lately that explore this beautifully difficult time in life.
Benchwarmer: A Sports-Obsessed Memoir of Fatherhood by Josh Wilker is sort of an encyclopedia of sports failure that explores how hard fathers can be on themselves in the context of raising a kid. It's not really a matter of being negative--I would say it is a matter of being realistic about the job of fatherhood. Many new parents succumb to the struggle of the role; we are our toughest critic. Wilker tries to convey that there is hope in failure. There is courage, greatness, and resolve to be found in sports figures who have not succeeded. It's a great metaphor for a parent of kids in sports. The reality is that success is limited to a select number, and the rest are left to fend for finding positive motivation from the losses. Those who figure it out tend to make it to the other side and find themselves successful fathers.
Escape Points by Michele Weldon is a unique story about a single mom who spars with cancer, divorce, and her career, along with the task of raising her sons. The sports connection comes in the form of her sons' high school wrestling careers, which she uses as a sort of lens to tell the story. As a coach, I witness all types of parents and family situations. On a typical team, very few family dynamics are similar, and everyone seems to bring a unique personal struggle to the table. What attracts me to Weldon's story is how she fights and sacrifices for her kids. Through modeling her own bravery as a mom and parent, she is able to lead by example, and show her children that tough situations can be overcome with humility, perseverance, and a little kindness along the way.
Soccer Dad: A father, a son, and a magical season by W.D. Wetherell is a different kind of story that takes place almost at the end of the ride. In the book, Wetherell explores his son's fantastic prep soccer career, and begins to lament moving into the empty-nester phase of life. While in one hand living the dream of his son's soccer success, he ponders what it will be like when the games are over. There's a distinct beauty to the seasons in sports, and a certain drowning of the senses where environment and sport collide. As I enter this phase, I connect with Witherell and his hope that he has raised his son well as he heads off to college, and I begin feeling wistful when driving past the empty fields or gyms where life took on such a great meaning.
I highlighted these books for the holidays because they might really fit the need for a particular someone you know. And at a time like the holidays, when the expectation is "happy family," you may know a parent who is struggling with that role and needs to know that there is hope.
Or--maybe it's just something to keep them occupied the next time they are at an all day youth club wrestling tournament!!