This weekend I’ll be watching the US Open tennis championship. I’ll grab Parker and teach him as much as I can about the tournament, the players and the sport in those precious five seconds that he will sit still before saying “dohwn”. Wimbledon and the US Open are the pinnacle of sporting events for me. I love them both. If I hadn’t skipped practice every other day when I attempted to play in college (and I possessed markedly better hand-eye coordination), I feel almost 0.99% certain that I would be playing Roger Federer in the final this year. Knock on wood for Federer since this post is written before he plays his semi-final match.
I had big dreams about becoming a professional tennis player. SPOILER ALERT: It didn’t happen.
I never truly believed in myself that much, nor gave 110% to the game.
When we adopted Parker, and I found out that his birth father was an extremely talented Pelota (Basque handball) player, I thought, “This is it. All of my dreams can come true. Parker is definitely going to play at Wimbledon one day. What will our “signal” be when I’m sitting in his player’s box and cheering him on? What’s the first thing I’ll say to John McEnroe when he wants to interview me?” I immediately researched how old he would need to be to attend Newks tennis camp. Newks is recognized as one of the best tennis camps in the world. I always regretted not going to a tennis camp. I, me, I, I, I, me, me.
That's when it hit me. Or, rather his Dad hit me (lovingly, kinda) and reminded me that those are my dreams - not Parker’s. Dream crusher.
It’s hard. Most parents (not to make sweeping generalizations here) have grand plans for the children. It’s human nature. We want them to accomplish more/be more than we did/are. We want them to realize that there are limitless possibilities in their future. We want them to DREAM BIG (and maybe, just maybe accomplish our dreams while they’re at it). I read an article where a researcher, Eddie Brummelman, found that children’s “achievements may come to function as a surrogate for their parents' own unfulfilled dreams,” He said that “a sense of oneness with their children may compel parents to transfer their unfulfilled ambitions on to them.”
So, what is my parental responsibility when it comes to Parker’s dreams? Here’s my feeble attempt at documenting some important reminders for myself. If you’re reading this in 15 years Parker, hopefully your ol’ Papa stuck to the plan.
PAPA’S IMPORTANT REMINDERS
- This isn’t about you. It’s about Parker. Your job is to make sure that he knows that you support him NO MATTER WHAT. This may mean buying a tennis racket one week, a soccer ball the next week, and golf clubs the following week. It may also mean that he’s never interested in sports. Your job is to love.
- Create the space for him to realize what his own BIG DREAMS are. Then, make them your BIG DREAMS. Go all in. If he decides that he wants to become the world champion in Extreme Ironing (it’s a real thing), then by golly, you better buy him an endless supply of irons and boards. Or, if he pursues chess, you better damn well learn to love watching paint dry. Your job is to cheer with insanity.
- Allow him to make choices and take risks. But, tell him the truth no matter what. Don’t falsely over-praise or shield him from life. Not everyone wins the trophy. Teach him that how you win and lose is important. Your job is to help shape his self-esteem and confidence, not create it for him.
- Be there to pick him up, dust him off and tell him you’ve never been more proud of him when he stumbles, falls or fails. It’s up to you to remind him of this fact: pursuing his dreams is what counts, not the end result. Your job is to comfort, support and believe in him - always.
- Remind him of the quote from Sierra Boggess (the actress) who says, “You are enough. You are so enough, it's unbelievable how enough you are.” Every day, your job is to help Parker understand that his biggest accomplishment in this world is showing up for life as the best, most authentic version of himself.
Five years ago, I took my mom and dad to watch the US Open in New York. It was the first time we’d actually been to the tournament, and it was the last big trip with my dad before he passed away. It ranks up there as one of the best moments of my life.
I think about that trip a lot. I think about them a lot. And, I get it now.
My dream isn’t about being a professional tennis player any more. My BIG DREAM is to be half as good a parent as my Mom and Dad. If I get that right, then I don’t have any need for my own US Open trophy. You can almost hear Roger Federer breathe a sigh of relief, can’t you.
If Parker looks back on his life and knows that his two dads had complete faith in him, loved him unconditionally and believed in his dreams, then we done good.