Friday, October 29, 2010

American Boyhood

Do you know that Wayne Gretzky's sons don't play hockey?

They don't.

Well, at least the oldest two don't. The first quit after riding the bench for a year. The second one chose baseball. The youngest two are just around my son's age

So the great one...the greatest hockey player of all time...his kids don't play hockey.

And he's okay with that.

That makes me feel so great! It totally puts into perspective that my son will never be an athlete.

Even before kids are conceived, I think every parent has a preconceived notion of what their kids will eventually be. Even those of us who try really hard not to, still do. It is so hard, no...impossible not to imagine them caring about the things we care about, excelling at the things we wish they would, and generally being happy about 99.7% of the time.

And then they're born. And they are nothing like you imagined. And as much as you love the heck out of them, and appreciate them for who they are, there is always this tiny, deeply covered part of your most inner self who mourns, just a bit, for the kids we thought they'd be.

Just one small comment by my son's teacher at our conference yesterday put it all into perspective for me.

She was telling me that third grade is a huge year of change for boys. Some of the them start caring about clothes. Some of them get serious about sports, and have the physiques to prove it. And some of them care about popularity and image for the first time. It's a time when boys assert their individuality.

And then she said, "Like your son...he's really found his direction in the fine arts. He's so amazing at music and art and drama."

She went on to tell me all these stories about how the other boys respect his talent (which is really just years of hard work) so much that they ask him to play violin for the class whenever he brings it to school. She told me how he read a script for the video the class is making, and the teaching fellow showed all the other teacher's his clip because it was so great.

I think if you've read this blog for any length of time, you have probably rolled your eyes at some point (over and over) and thought, there she goes, bragging about her kids again. And I do think they're pretty great. But what you don't read here is how sometimes I am disappointed that they don't care about what I cared about when I was a kid.

I worry all the time that they got all of my worst qualities and none of my good ones. I hate that they are not physically fit. I feel massive amounts of guilt and anxiety about it.

They drive me crazy when they are lazy. They make me nuts when they don't try things that are hard. They make me want to scream when they don't try hard.

I mean, heck. They're not perfect. I love them. But sometimes I am sad about they are not.

I'm sad that they are not passionate about sports like I was. That's not something most parents would probably admit. But what the heck.

But my son's teacher? She's taught hundreds of kids in an almost 20 year career. She greets 20 boys at her classroom door every morning. And because she is not their parent, she can love them for the unique individuals they are, without any of the regret for what they are not.

She looks at my son and sees an artist. A musician. An actor. And as she told me, the most polite, conscientious, agreeable, and happy boy she's ever taught.

Before I had kids, I pictured my son as this rough and tumble, athletic, captain of the baseball team type.

And what I got was this sensitive, empathetic actor, artist and musician. And he's happy 99.7% of the time.

How could I ever have any regrets?

It's time to let the preconceived notions of boyhood go.

I love this kid more than I could ever say.

I bet Wayne Gretzky's kids can't play the violin.

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