Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Eggs with a Side of Grit

On days when my husband performs surgery, he leaves the house at 6:30 am. Since we have always eaten breakfast together as a family, this means that on surgery days we wake up at 5:30. However, between 5-hour tennis matches and homework, the last two nights have been kind of rough on our daughter, so this morning we let her sleep until 6 am. Because I'm such a good parent, I slept in, too--I'm generous like that. Then I roamed the house in search of a functional shower (oh, don't ask), got dressed, hollered a few times to be certain my daughter was awake, received reassuring replies, and went down to figure out what I could have for breakfast given that I needed to go to the grocery about a month ago and haven't.

"You want eggs?" I yelled.
"Sure," my daughter replied. She came down the stairs looking harassed. She'd had a nosebleed, she said, and it wouldn't stop. No big deal, she gets them all the time. I was happily chopping fresh parsley and green onions. "Are those eggs going to be ready soon?" my daughter asked, rather pointedly for someone who was getting a hot breakfast cooked for her.

I assured her that the eggs would be ready soon. She took the dogs outside, and when she came back in with them made a sort of noise at me which sounded like profound impatience. I was stirring eggs. You don't want to cook scrambled eggs too quickly, it curdles them. I poured myself some coffee and clicked on my phone to check Facebook. Stir, stir. Then I saw the time on the top of my phone.

"Is it seriously 7 o'clock?"

"Yes," my daughter hissed. Suddenly her impatience made a lot more sense. She leaves for school at seven o'clock.

Okay, so she ate the eggs, slurped coffee, and was out the door at 7:04. Crisis averted.

Here is the thing about my children: they amaze me. They are a long way off perfect--in fact, they are often annoyingly imperfect--but oh, my, are they amazing. Smart as whips, both of them. And both of them played, or play, high school sports. When they were little playing different sports in rec leagues I would have said that apart from getting exercise, their playing sports wasn't important to me. Now I see that I was wrong.

I've never been the sort of mother who gets angry on the sidelines. I still see athletic events as a chance to get a lot of knitting done.  I never charted my kids' stats, I didn't keep track of their league standings. I sometimes forgot to bring snacks when it was my turn. Especially in the soccer and little league years, I never cared how well they did, because it seemed miraculous to me that they could do any of it at all. My son could catch a ball! My daughter could run and kick! Honestly, my mental bar was set pretty low. I just loved to watch them play.

Yesterday I realized that I am glad they play sports for a different reason. Sports aren't easy. Sports are a struggle. Both of my children have found school work easy, at least through high school, and while we've always stressed the importance of hard work, there's really no way to make homework difficult when it simply isn't. When your kid breezes through it. But I want my children to know the value of not doing well, of fighting and struggling and sometimes getting it right and sometimes getting it wrong. I want them to understand that the world doesn't end if they fail at something. I want them to understand what failure feels like, and also success; I want them to know that they can work really hard at something and still not be as good as the talented slacker next to them. Forget stats. I'm about grit, and grit is something sports have taught my children.

Yesterday my daughter's tennis team played one of their divisional arch-rivals. In singles my daughter went down 3 games very quickly. She muttered to herself, hands on hips, got her game face on, kept trying. She fought back. She lost. At the end of singles, the teams were tied, 3-3.

My daughter has a new partner for doubles this year and they suit each other well. They went ahead early, but the other team came back, and then it was tied. Then my daughter served and won. It doesn't sound like a big deal, and in the grand scheme of things it wasn't, but I'll say that her serve is the weakest part of her game. That her overall play is much better this year. That performing under pressure isn't easy, and that she played very well when it mattered most.

She threw her arms in the air, and then she threw them around her partner, and then she threw them around her coach.  One of the other doubles pairs won, and one lost, so my daughter's team won the match. Later her coach came up to me. "She's a fighter," he said. "I like that."

Oh, me too. Me too.