When my daughter came to me this morning before school to tell me that she and her fellow cheerleaders were cheering at the first girls basketball game of the year I sighed slightly and started to tell her my busy schedule would prevent me from attending. As I spoke these words her gentle and sweet 13-year-old face…sunk. She clearly expected me to be there as I have been for virtually all her cheerleading events of this year and all other flute, choir, school related performances she has ever been part of.
When I realized that my schedule wasn’t THAT busy, at least not busy enough to disappoint my daughter I told her I’d be there. She smiled a broad and bright smile and gave me a kiss. I’d made her happy and it didn’t cost me anything more than my time, a mere 60-90 minutes.
Only this past football season I saw a college football star being interviewed after a big performance in a game when the interviewer asked, “Your Mom is here. I understand she never missed one of your games as you were growing up.” The ball-player laughed, smiled and said, “Heck, she never missed an assembly”. Pretty special mom, I thought.
Sales-trainer-author Tom Hopkins said some years ago, “When your kids bother to tell you about an event, realize IT’S IMPORTANT TO THEM! If it wasn’t important, they wouldn’t tell you.” I know it may seem obvious to some, and those “some” are the parents of young kids or no kids. When your children reach their teens there are all kinds of things, and events they don’t tell you about; many that you wish they had.
If you are not there, or you somehow prevent your kids from being-there at an event they told you about or participating themselves you could be hurting them for a lot longer than the youthful, immature disappointment of missing something they had a fleeting interest in. My Dad’s ill temper and poor judgement on one such issue scars me to this very day. And it still hurts.
I am and always have been a huge sports fan. My first love was basketball. It’s a love I inherited from my father. He was a Seattle Sonics season ticket holder from their first year in 1967 until illness and disability caused him to give up his tickets in 1997. When I was growing up I had posters on my bedroom wall of all the Sonic Stars; Spencer Haywood, Fred Brown, Slick Watts, Leonard Grey, Leaping Lee Winfield, Coach Bill Russell, and Lenny Wilkins.
I was 15 years old when the Sonics won the NBA Championship in June 1979 and like so many others in the greater-Seattle region I made plans to attend the Championship Victory Parade Downtown the following Monday. Since I lived in Bellevue and the parade was on a school day planning was no small matter. I got permission from my Dad to skip school, then contacted all my friends who I wanted to go with, figured out the bus routes I’d need to take and got really excited. It was gonna be great. Nothing like this had EVER happened in Seattle and as it turned out never would again, at least at this point.
Problem was on Sunday, the day before the parade my Dad retracted his permission for me to go. He had been drinking. He was always an angry drunk. And in a moment in which he felt I back-talked to him (I guess) he told me I wasn’t going to the parade. I was shocked! I was absolutely shocked! This was going to be the biggest event in my life to that point and I had made all my plans. But my Dad had spoken. I got the impression he was genuinely pleased with himself for striking such a moving blow to his son. My size took away the option of him getting physical with me anymore. So his choices of discipline had been significantly hampered.
I was alone at school the next day. All my friends were at the parade. It was an unusually warm and sunny day for the city of Seattle. Everyone was in T-shirts. Estimates put the crowd at well over 200-thousand people. When my friends returned later in the day they stopped by my home to share just how wonderful it was. They didn’t have to. I knew beforehand that it was going to be a memory of a lifetime.
Some days later my Dad glowered over me about it. He says he called my school that day to make sure I’d gone to school. I don’t think my Dad ever fully appreciated the fact that I was a good kid. I did what my parents told me, always. I hadn’t even considered skipping school after he told me I couldn’t. But I would never forget.
As you can probably tell in my writing I still resent the hell out of my Dad for taking this event from me. No other Seattle major sports team has won a professional championship since that sunny week in June 1979. In the 33 years since then news accounts and occasionally friends will reference the parade and how wonderful it was. Trust me. I know.
Talk this week of Seattle getting a new sports arena for the NBA and possibly the NHL has revived the references to the championship and the parade and the long ago ache that never seems to go away. I still have the Seattle PI Headlines and Sports page from the championship framed and on display in my home.
I try to remember the hurt my Dad caused with his temper. Because I have a temper. And unlike my father I would never take joy from crushing my children. I’m not perfect, so I’m not saying I haven’t made mistakes. I hope I haven’t. But I do keep in mind that my words, deeds, and discipline of my kids have impact. Sometimes…lifelong impact. Just like every parent.
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