Saturday, June 20, 2009

My article currently in Parentwise Magazine. Enjoy

Welcome to the generation of the “over the top” parents. Our generation is doing things for our kids that our parents could not have imagined. I think we are in the midst of a parenting craze that is going to soon be nicknamed, analyzed and made fun of for years to come. I’m going to go ahead and call it “Earl Woods Syndrome”. Who can forget that image of Tiger at age 2 on the Mike Douglas Show putting with Bob Hope? Somehow, that was imbedded in our minds as a role model for good parenting. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. We feel like we have to give our children every opportunity to achieve greatness at an age where most are still filling their diapers involuntarily. The big difference between most of the parents and me is that I’m not accomplished at ANYTHING. Because I lack the expertise to teach her any kind of activity, I’m a sucker for the “expert for hire”.

My parents would freak if they knew I was getting my kid individual swim lessons every week for the last three years. It started out as “let’s make sure she can swim just in case she falls in water” and quickly became “Hey, she’s pretty good at this, we ought to stick with it. It’s easy to jump ahead 15 years and picture your kid on the podium. I tried swimming in high school and couldn’t remember how many laps to go back and forth. I would sometimes finish early; sometimes continue until the crowd laughter caused me to stop. My wife is the only person I have ever seen who appears to have perfect freestyle technique, yet moves backwards. She has invented the “moonwalk” of swimming

For the past couple of years we have also been taking our daughter to a city park for skateboard lessons. Yep, you heard me right. I said skateboard lessons. You might ask, “don’t most kids just learn to skateboard in the neighborhood cruising around with other kids?” The answer to that question is yes, but not at my house. I don’t know the first thing about skateboarding so I headed to a local skate shop and started asking around. Luckily the guys at No Comply Skate Shop didn’t laugh me out the door. They were pretty helpful in getting her the right board, the right shoes and helmet. Through the magic of radio, I was able to solicit for a skate coach. I didn’t know where to find one. This is not a very organized sport. It sort of thrives on lack of organization and rebellion. A listener called in and told me about her son Jason, who teaches skateboarding, swimming and drums. Perfect! I loved this guy before I even met him. Sign us up for all three! Once a week I take my daughter to see Jason and he hangs with her like she’s one of the bro’s. I sit there feeling like an old fart that doesn’t know how to skate, probably because I’m an old fart that doesn’t know how to skate. Her skating is coming along quite well, a far cry from the trial and crash method I grew up with.

Last summer we decided to take a family trip to southern California. My daughter started asking questions about the ocean and surfing. She’s 6 years old at this point. Little Earl Woods started talking to me in my imagination and I got on the Internet and on the phone to find out if anyone would teach my daughter to surf. We found a great local shop in Carlsbad and they could not have been better. They seemed as enthusiastic as me to begin my daughters surfing career. We showed up, they gave us a soft long board, the smallest wetsuit I have ever seen and a blonde haired stoner to escort us to the beach. Within 5 minutes he had her up on the board and surfing! We were thrilled. Not being an easy sport to participate in when you are an Austinite, we now find ourselves pulling our Airstream down to the coast as often as possible so our kid can get her surfing fix. It’s not as glamorous as So. Cal, but it works for a 1st grader. What 1st grader in central Texas has three surfboards? Mine does. I stand there in the waves getting pounded looking less like Mathew McCaughauhey and more like Jack Black. I proceed to pull her out into the pounding waves, watch her surf all the way in and swim in to exchange hi-fives with her over and over. In the meantime, my wife is trying to relax on a beach that is so covered in seaweed you can barely see her. The rest of the time she’s fighting off angry pelicans. We don’t mind because our daughter is having the time of her life.

We are entering into our fourth year of karate. What dad out there doesn’t want his little girl to “kick @ss” if she ever needs to? Every week we watch her go through the motions of basically, getting in a fight with air. For the most part toddler karate looks like Gary Busey having a bad dream. Fathers planning on raising a young karate student should be prepared for a lot of surprise blows to the groin. That’s all I’m saying. My karate experience you ask? I made some nunchucks in 7th grade and then proceeded to split my head open within 5 minutes.

The list goes on and on. We now do horseback riding lessons. You guessed it. I’ve never ridden a horse, but I did watch Mr. Ed growing up. A part of me wishes she would pick one thing, stick with it and be the next Tiger Woods of the sport. A part of me is enjoying all of sports vicariously through her. It may be a completely foolish waste of time and money to round up all these lessons for her. Maybe I, like many other parents today, am screwing up my kid for good by not letting them learn anything on their own. I’m not sure and I won’t know until she’s grown up, will I? She’s great at all the things we’ve tackled over the years. I really don’t have any expectations for her to pursue a career with any one of these things. I just hope at the end of the day, she remembers that we were there, mom and dad. We were the expert of nothing, but we were there getting pounded by the waves, falling off the skateboard, getting hit where it really hurts and in the near future shoveling horse manure, I’m sure. The important thing is that we were there, loving every second of it.

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