Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The End of the Games

Yesterday my daughter was named to the 2-team All Conference for tennis. It was a nice way to cap her four years of high school sports. Her team advances to regional competition, but as only 5 players per team compete for the state tournament, and she plays number six, she won't be on the court again unless something awful happens to one of her teammates. Monday I watched her play in the individual district competition and realized, when it was over, that a phase of her life and mine was done.

My son is a particularly avid sports fan. Any sport, anywhere, any time. He understands the rules for gaelic football, which no one outside of Ireland besides himself does, and seems to stay on top of my obscure sport, eventing, with no effort at all (Conversation before he went abroad: Me--I texted Lauren to see what we should do about your phone. Him--It's been ten years since Aunt Lauren went to Europe, it's changed. Me--Not Aunt Lauren, my friend Lauren. She was there last fall. Him--Please tell me you did not just bother LAUREN KIEFFER about my phone. Geez, Mom, you can't do that. She doesn't have time for that. Me--she says you should buy a sim card there.) He played tball, soccer, little league baseball, and high school golf.

My daughter events, played tball once, by accident, soccer for several years, and then tennis starting in middle school. She started for her high school tennis team all four years, growing steadily better along with her team. Our boys' tennis team is a state dynasty--3 state championships in the last 5 years--and this year our girls' team might be that good too.

 I've loved watching them play. I've loved seeing their teamwork and camaraderie blossom. It'll sound odd, but I've loved watching my kids struggle. They're both extremely bright; through high school they didn't get much of a challenge academically. I think failure teaches us as much as success, and grit and perseverance are worth cultivating. Both my children are good athletes who've improved through hard work, but they've had tough moments they've had to overcome, all on their own, and they did. They lost some games, but they kept competing.

In high school golf and tennis, there are no referees. Players give themselves penalty shots and make their own line calls. There's room for cheating, and some players cheat. Not my kids. They understood early on that their integrity was worth more than any point in any game. I've been proud of that.

Sometimes when my son was small baseball games and baseball season lasted forever. Sometimes the compressed high school schedules meant we were watching golf or tennis matches every evening of the week for a month. Sometimes it all seemed to take up a lot of time, but in what I've come to understand is the way of everything, it went by quickly in the end. My time spent watching my children play is over. I'll miss it. I'll miss them.