Epic Parenting Fail

Growing up in the 60′s and 70′s in Kentucky, Ohio, and Southern California, I enjoyed amazing freedom. When I was six, seven, and eight, I spent my summers swimming at a local pool and playing golf at an adjoining nine hole par-3 course. With my clubs outstretched across my handlebars I biked a mile plus to the course. No helmet, major road crossing mid-way, no problem.

I’d be gone all morning often returning in the afternoon with my mom and sibs. Thus the skin cancer. While Wonderyears Wayne brandished his legend on the 10 meter platform, I decided between Twinkies and HoHos.*

From nine to twelve it was pickup football EVERYday after school. Despite being built like a 3-iron, I just wouldn’t go down. An 80 pound Marshawn Lynch. We’d play on our spacious, fenceless, suburban Ohio lawns, or on especially rainy or snow days, we’d jog along a wooded trail to the Talmadge High School field where the objective was to win while sliding as far as possible in the muddy grass. On Friday nights in the winter I’d take the same trail to the gym to watch high school basketball games.

Fast forward to today, where my wife and I and our friends grossly overplan every childhood activity**. If you had asked my mom where I was at any given non-school moment, odds are she wouldn’t have known. That’s why she was caught off guard when a construction worker chased me darn near into our house after friends and I raised hell on his site. And that’s why, one spring, she threatened to “never take me to the Emergency Room again” when I called to tell her I cut my foot wide open while playing around barefoot on a just melted tennis court. Today, she’d be tarred and feathered for her laissez-faire parenting.

But I lived. More than that, I flourished, because I was allowed to learn from bonehead decisions. Today, parents are squelching their kids with hyper-organized activities and constant monitoring. Recent research reveals that on average, even today’s college students text and/or talk to their parents twice a day. Co-dependence trumps independence.

Why the over-involvement and constant contact? My hypothesis is an irrational media-fueled fear of childhood abductions. My guess is there are the same or even fewer child abductions (per capita) today than in the 60′s and 70′s, but when they happen they get amplified in people’s minds as a result of cable news shows, People Magazine, and the 24/7 news cycle. By tuning into the media bullshit, we’ve helped create a false sense of unmitigated danger.

And so we end up with soccer leagues for three year olds and global position satellite devices for teens’ cars. And to what effect? Young people who aren’t passionate about much of anything because they’ve spent the bulk of their childhoods doing what their parent(s) have wanted them to.

Bethrothed and I talked this through on the way home from Seventeen’s last swim meet. It’s not a coincidence that she only swims in-season when adults expect her to. A friend of hers, an ace violinist, is sick and tired of playing the violin. Neither have ever been even close to the ER.

The GalPal and I have regrets, but also know there was a certain inevitability to our parenting approach given the “tipping point” created by our friends’ decision making. We tried to swim upstream one summer, honestly we did, deciding not to schedule any activities at all. Turned out few if any of our daughters’ friends were around thanks to a steady schedule of drama, sport, music, and dance camps.

If you’re twenty-five or thirty and just starting a family there is one escape. Buy a small farm. Raise animals and grow food. If your kids have to feed chickens, milk cows, and repair fences, they’ll spend far less time playing adult organized activities and facebooking (yes, that’s a new verb).

Of course there are legitimate things to worry about, for older children especially, alcohol and drug abuse, driving under the influence, and teen pregnancy. Minimize those risks by having dinner together, checking in regularly, knowing your children’s friends, and listening. Eliminate them by scheduling all of your children’s time, putting a video cam in their bedrooms, and monitoring their every move.

In the end, the choice isn’t entirely yours, in large part, it’s the families in your hood.

* in hindsight I should have said, “Hey girls, someday I’m gonna crush the Platform Primadonna at Ironman Canada.”

** kid you not, there are about eight parent committees to choose among if you want to help plan the class of 2013′s post graduation Senior Night

In Da’ Club

The title of a thumpin’ Fiddy Cent track.

It’s well known that adolescents place great importance on fitting into groups. It’s less well known that we never outgrow our need for affiliation. Our happiness isn’t contingent on being in da’ club, but in clubs, as the following experiences have recently reminded me.

Cycling up and down Washington State’s mountains. The roads we cycle routinely attract motorcycle and car clubs. No motorized vehicles for ten minutes then whoosh, whoosh, whoosh—twenty five Miatas, Nissan Cubes, or Christian Harley riders. Interesting how special interest groups form around a common interest—like climbing mountains on bicycles—or by driving a common car or motorcycle.

Working out at the Y. The Y is teeming with clubs including traditional aerobics, yoga, water aerobics, Masters swimming, 5:30a.m. basketball, spinning, and the retiree coffee klatsch.

Reading a Sojourners Magazine interview with Rebecca Barrett-Fox who wrote her doctoral dissertation on Westboro “Baptist Church” which just protested at our state capitol and local high school. Here’s the relevant excerpt: SojournersDid the actual church service resemble mainstream Christian worship? Barret-Fox—I saw a lot of circling the wagons, with sermons about things like Noah and the flood and how only eight people got on the ark. This church is the ark, so if you’re a part of this church you’re getting on. The sermons are actually very typical of themes addressed in Calvinist teaching: questions of how you know that you are in or how you know that they are out. Sojourners—So the attraction is the appeal of being part of the “in group.” Barret-Fox—Exactly. And I could see the attractiveness of that in a world that is fragmented and scary, especially if you are not okay with doubt or gray areas.

Westboro isn’t a spiritual community, it’s a sociological one. Members have distinct identities—chosen hate mongers. The hate-filled rhetoric, signage, and protests are shared experiences that reinforce a distinct group mindset. Barret-Fox adds: . . . church members create a culture that makes it uncomfortable to leave, and that becomes a high hurdle. They’ll take you off the church rolls, so you are excommunicated, but it amounts to more than simply excommunication from church services; it is de facto shunning because, as one member has said, “We don’t have time to talk to people who aren’t part of the church.”

I’m not the clubber that more extraverted peeps like the GalPal are—church council club, Spanish book club, and a coffee klatsch among others. I have a small group of friends I run with a few mornings each week (known affectionately as the Baboons, after a homeless woman yelled angrily at us “You look like a bunch of baboons!” while we were running shirtless on a hot summer morning on 4th Street) and another that I cycle with a few evenings each week for half of the year. Add that to my list of oddities, the bulk of my clubbing takes place at between 7 and 24 miles per hour.

Suburban neighborhoods—where I’ve spent too much of my life—conspire against community. There’s the occasional neighborhood garage sale or July 4th potluck, but suburbanites are usually stuck driving to fitness centers, grocery stores, post offices, and the bulk of their small groups activities. We need more urban planning that promotes community—with walking and bike trails, parks, and small accessible stores and service providers.

Once safely ensconced in a group most teens forget about what it feels like to be on the outside. Too often, we don’t outgrow that either. One thing I’ve always admired about Betrothed is she’s always conscious of people who are new to church or a social gathering and she goes out of her way to introduce herself and talk to them. The world is a tad more humane and friendly as a result of her presence.

Once securely in a group, we tend to adopt specific behaviors to signal that we’re “in da’ club”. At my Iron-distance triathlon in late August, there will be a ginormous merchandise village at which nearly everyone of the 3,000 participants will load up on t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, visors, and all things fitness to “signal” they are “in da’ club”. Dig the sweatshirt—I am an Ironperson, you’re not. (To which the ambivalent clubber in me says, “Big whoop. So you’re well-to-do, over-exercise, and probably suffer from early onset narcissism.)

At Lutheran churches we sometimes signal we’re “in da’ club” by referencing all things Garrison Keiler and Norwegian. Numb to the fact that “inside references or jokes” make newcomers who aren’t Scandinavian feel less than full members of the community.

Self-important academics (sorry for the redundancy) are especially skilled at drawing circles around their clubs which are usually tied to specific disciplines. Among other methods, they create and use elaborate terms and acronyms that leave outsiders wondering exactly what the hell they’re talking about.

We should acknowledge our need for group affiliation and build neighborhoods that promote the formation and success of small groups. We need more people like my Better Half who are especially conscious of those not “in da club”. And we would be well served by reflecting more regularly on the ways our clubs sometimes exclude others.

Connecting With Teens

As a teacher, coach, father, person, I’ve always been pretty good at connecting with teens. Maybe for the following reasons:

1) I enjoy them, quirks and all. Well, the vast majority. I like their energy, goofiness, earnestness, naïveté. I don’t think of them as a separate specie that is up to no good. Sometimes I even abandon my peers, “cross over,” and sit with them at multi-family get togethers. Most teens rise to the level of adult expectations.

2) I look past outward appearances. I know they’re not going to look the same at 30. I don’t read much into funky haircuts, baggy pants, wild hair coloring, and piercings. Those things don’t reflect a lack of values, they’re just trying out different personas and learning to blend in with peers. One evening eighteen years ago, after a day spent exploring the Washington D.C. mall, my squeeze and I, with our one-year old daughter in tow, collapsed into chairs at a table at the Pentagon City Mall food court in Alexandria, VA. One minute later a group of about seven teens in black trench coats, with the requisite black hair, nail polish, and piercings started to settle into the table next to us. When they lit up, I walked over and calmly and respectfully said, “I don’t know if you guys saw the sign, but this is a no smoking area.” They apologized, got up and left. Exactly what I envisioned would happen.

3) I like some of the same aspects of pop culture as many of them. Which helps bridge the generation divide. Turns out many of Nineteen’s friends at the Midwest liberal arts college know the contents of my iPad. What a claim to fame, the geezer who likes pop music, hip-hop, and rap. Please understand though, I don’t listen to Eminem or watch Glee in order to bridge the generation divide. The “fake it until you make it” cliché does not apply to consuming pop culture in order to connect with teens. When it comes to teens and pop culture, fake it and forget it. The interest has to be genuine. It probably helps that my adolescent self is still alive and well. Just ask my family sometime, I’ve never completely outgrown my immature, stupid younger self. My arrested development helps me connect with teens.

4) I make fun of myself and joke around more generally. I haven’t met a teen yet that doesn’t appreciate self-deprecating humor. They live in perpetual fear of others laughing at them, so when I’m making fun of myself, it’s a much appreciated respite from their normal “people are about to laugh at me” anxiety. Ten weeks into my first year of teaching in inner-city L.A. I was at war with third period U.S. History. The class could have tipped either way when one day I yanked down the large U.S. map attached to the front board and it flew off the hooks landing across my upper back. Without thinking I went full Dick Van Dyke, grabbing said map, throwing it to the ground, and stomping on it. They thought that was the funniest thing they’d ever seen. Since I was human they decided to give me a break. Over the remaining thirty weeks I built a nice rapport with those students.

5) I anticipate bad decisions and am careful not to overreact when they stumble. More commonly, adults are surprised and disappointed by teens’ mistakes. Then they assert their authority and hand out strict punishments. From this teens learn more about adult power than what they might do differently the next time they have to make a difficult decision. Error prone teens always appreciate it when adults take the time to listen, talk, teach, and individualize necessary punishments.

16

Happy b-day to my favorite tall, slender, pale, whispy blonde high school fashionista. A sporadic reader of the blog, right now she’s completely unplugged at church camp near the Canadian border. That means I can call her “pale” and write whatever I want.

I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help myself. Right before she ceremonially set her phone on the kitchen counter and departed for camp I naively asked, “What are you going to miss more, your cell phone or me?” Hope she doesn’t mind if I assume her on-line identity and jump right in to her friends’ texting torrent. Maybe I should update her Facebook page for her.

I’ve always been skeptical of conventional wisdom about teens. Yes, there’s her post-Katrina bedroom, shrugs and grunts over breakfast, and occasional attitude, but the big-picture parenting challenge is to remember that’s superficial stuff.

Scratch below the surface and ask her about her faith, the death penalty, her surviving middle school, her desire to live in another country by herself after college, the five (soon to be six) kids she regularly babysits, or her desire to someday have her own medium-large family.

She’s blossoming into an increasingly competent, thoughtful young woman with nice friends with whom she can be her quirky self. For instance, how many Sixteens rank their friends’ driving? To move up the list she advises, “Don’t be oblivious or careless.” Words to live by.

When it comes to 16, I’m proud of a lot of things including her work with young children and her remembering, when it comes to peer relations, what it feels like to be on the outside looking in.

Watching her blossom is a great joy.

Teach Friendship

Most friendships just evolve. Our closest friends typically end up being people with whom we share a common activity or interest. In terms of living emotionally healthy, constructive, fulfilling lives, nothing matters much more than who we become friends with and whether they inspire us to be better or worse people than we would be without them.

Because we aren’t as intentional as we might be about our friendships, we assume the young people we have responsibility for will just “find their way”. Experience is a great teacher, but parents, teachers, coaches, youth pastors, and other adults that regularly work with young people should explicitly teach friendship. Choosing friends that inspire is a learned skill. Just hope that those types of friendships naturally evolve at your children’s and your own risk.

Those were my thoughts while reading a nice one-pager by KJ Fields titled “How to spot an unhealthy relationship” in Group Health’s Spring 2011 NWHealth magazine. Thanks to Fields for providing a tool for teaching friendship. These are signs that a relationship may be bad for you:

  • You don’t feel respected or listened to.
  • The other person’s opinion is always the one that matters most.
  • Your feelings are belittled.
  • You act differently around this person, fearing disapproval or anger.
  • You feel worried and tense about the relationship, rather than enjoying it.
  • You’re always the one to make the effort or compromise.
  • Your values and beliefs are far apart.
  • The other person is overly critical of you, and frequently insults you.
  • You find yourself lying to hide information from the other person.

That’s a nice conceptual framework for dinner table, school, or youth group conversations with adolescents especially about peer relations in general and dating relationships more specifically.

The All Important Middle School Years

For adults with children at home. If that doesn’t describe you, consider forwarding the link to a parent friend.

I’m not God’s gift to parenting, I’m sharing my story in the hope of provoking conversation and proving helpful in some small way.

As a young parent I had a hunch. My adolescence and gut told me that the quality of my daughters’ close friend decision-making would go a long ways to determining how they’d turn out as young adults. Consequently, we talked about it a lot and both daughters processed our teaching, but in very different ways.

Social scientists are finding out what many parents already know, siblings are often remarkably different one from another. In fact, they’re finding out they’re almost as different as a random sampling of children.

Our daughters’ close friend decision-making stories are illustrative of two things: 1) how different siblings often are, and 2) how true my initial hunch was that the nature of children’s close friend decision-making greatly influences who they become as young adults.

In this regard, the sixth to eighth grade time period seems especially important. Near the end of fifth grade Eighteen announced that she wanted to go to a small, independent, academically oriented middle school. “But all your friends are going to Washington Middle School.” “I’ll make new ones.” There were 32-34 people in her sixth grade class and the girls subdivided into two groups of eight or so. For some reason I can’t quite explain, Eighteen had no interest in working her way into the “cool” group. Instead, she became very good friends with other girls who were perfectly happy being the “geeks at a school for geeks”.

Individually and collectively they were unusually secure in themselves for twelve and thirteen year olds. Consequently, they unwittingly denied the “cool” group their primary leverage, elevated social status. Social status is only a competition when two or more groups willing enter into competition. Eighteen and her friends opted out of the competition altogether. It was a beautiful thing. They did well in school, they did meaningful community service, they excelled in music and athletics, they encouraged each other academically, they avoided the pitfalls of drugs and alcohol, and then they expanded their circle two and three-fold in their large, comprehensive high school. Now they’re doing well in excellent colleges across the country.

The GalPal and I could have been forgiven if we thought “This is cake.”

When Fifteen was twelve, she decided to attend small, independent, academic middle school too. Similar class size, similar subdivision of girls, totally different outcome. Fifteen wanted in the “in” group. The alpha cool student quickly picked up on this and from the get go took advantage of it by being friendly one day or week and nasty the next. The rest of the inner circle followed the alpha cool student’s lead, so socially, sixth and seventh grade was a hellish time. In an effort to try to fit in she compromised her true values and sense of self. Fortunately, she did this before the “in” group had access to drugs and alcohol.

By eighth grade, she gave up trying to be accepted by a group that she began to realize she didn’t really want to be a part of anyways. Socially, she spent most of the year alternating between making friends with seventh graders and hanging out by herself. Throughout this time, her mom and dad were impressing upon her the importance of befriending people who bring out the best in you, who make you a better person than you otherwise would be. She was tired, frustrated, sad, and very receptive to our teaching at that point.

High school has been redemptive. She has wonderful friends who share her values of doing well in school, respecting oneself and others, being physically active, and she’s healthier and happier than ever. She has a bright future.

She returned from a party the other day where she caught up with a middle school friend who attends a different high school. She learned the alpha cool student has fallen off the straight and narrow and no one from that inner circle is friends with her anymore. I feel badly for her and Fifteen probably does too. Her middle school meanness seemed rooted in insecurities that no doubt have gotten the best of her.

Post-party Fifteen reflected that she’s “so glad” she went through social hell when she did because now she has a better feel for who she is and how to choose and make close friends that share her values. Mutual friendships, friends that willingly accept one another’s quirks, friends that continuously welcome other people into their circle, friends that inspire.

That chapter of our family life was anything but cake. It was hard to watch without swooping in, but had we helicoptered in, we very likely would have shortchanged the personal discoveries and growth Fifteen experienced.

I couldn’t be more proud of her and grateful for her great leap forward.

Competitive Fire

You’re granted an “adolescent magic wand” with which you can provide the young adults you know an intense competitiveness or an above average ability to cooperate with others. Which do you choose?

Trick question because they’ll benefit from an intense competitiveness in the world of work and from cooperation-based experiences, knowledge, and skills in their personal lives.

An intense competitiveness will undoubtedly come in handy with the college admissions process, tightening labor markets, and the fluid, knowledge economy that an increasing number of Chinese, east-Indian, and Brazilian young adults are confidently entering.

Rewind to last week’s Narrows League Swim Meet at Foss High School in Tacoma, WA. Two hundred adolescent female swimmers exhibiting differing degrees of competitiveness. The mother and father in front of me sit passively until their daughter enters the water and then they go beserk. Their daughter, one of the top swimmers at the meet, seemingly feeds off their energy.

I’ve got the dad all figured out. Former national water polo player, then extreme fighter, and now UFC executive. He’s stolen my hair cut, but I let it go because I’m a wee bit intimidated by the tats running down his rippled triceps.

Event two for his daughter and I’m in full on eavesdropping mode. Dad is flexing for daughter and she’s eating it up from the behind the block. He air-shouts and she lip-reads, “GO HARD!” She eats it up as if there’s an electric current connecting them. Swims a 25 second 50 free and all I can think is the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

My approach to spectating is more cerebral. I’m in Phil Jackson-mode, sitting quietly focusing more on writing down splits than firing up my daughter. Afterwards, when I get real excited, I flash her a thumbs up sign. Forget electricity, I barely muster a spark.

It must be my fault that my daughters lack competitive fire. But just about then the competitive fire water got muddier.

I’m in the top row of bleachers, leaning against the cinder block wall next to the father of our team’s swimmer of the meet. She won the 50 free, beating rippled triceps daughter in the process, despite having only the fifth fastest qualifying time and she won the 100 breast going away (1:08). Her dad, who I know, stood passively next to me while she swam. Like me, he doesn’t have a bicep to flex. Two egghead peas in a pod, we talk philosophically. Wait a minute, where does his daughter’s intensity come from?

I ask if she’s going to swim in college. “No, we’re discouraging her from doing that it’s such a time-suck.” Mental parenting report card. Two points for separating their egos, minus one for not letting her decide herself.

Maybe competitive fire is like most things in life, part nature, part nurture. Most adolescents are wired like their parent(s) and follow their lead, but not all. What works for each family is different.

Returning to the magic wand, being comfortable with competition is important, but of course there’s a point of diminishing returns. We all know people whose competitive nature gets the best of them.

Once a young person gets into college, and once they take a job, cooperation-based experiences, knowledge, and skills are more integral to their success. Not just their workplace success, but their happiness in life more generally. Which begs the question, why aren’t we more intentional about teaching young people how to cooperate with one another?

Beautifully Sad

College drop off one is in the books. How was it? Beautifully sad. After the final hugs, we finally boarded the airport shuttle bus. Eighteen made it especially tough because she wouldn’t walk away. She just waited and watched, never budging. I guess I should have known that was coming, but Fifteen had to inform me that Eighteen’s always stood frozen in time watching whatever conveyances take her loved ones away. Points off for not knowing that.

I was surprised by the GalPal’s relative calmness. Later she informed me she’d been crying quite a bit in private over the last few weeks. Her spirituality made all the difference. Her epiphany? Ultimately, Eighteen belongs to God. We’ve just been taking care of her the last eighteen years. She’s also convinced the distance will prove instrumental in Eighteen assuming adult responsibilities.

Lots of thoughts were swirling around in my head on the shuttle bus ride to the airport. The overarching one was how beautifully sad the separation was. I suppose some parents are glad when their young adult children finally leave the nest. That, in my mind, would be sad sad.

It was a reminder that in life whenever we choose intimacy (by partnering with someone for long stretches of life or by choosing to reproduce), we inevitably increase the risk of painful separation brought about by human fallibility and/or the natural passage of time.

Another thought was how nice it was that I didn’t have to give the final pep talk I had tentatively planned titled, “Work Even Harder, Honor your Grandparents, Don’t Eat Too Many Chocolate Cocoa Puffs, and Be Sure to Get Enough Sleep” because we spent four days together, days marked by dinners out where I told a few college and life parables that communicated everything I had wanted to. I know her well, she listened carefully, I felt no need to elaborate.

The weirdest thing about the four days was how comfortable Eighteen was in her own skin, even when surrounded by her sometimes annoying sister, mother, (and always) annoying father. Day four, after moving in to her dorm room, I suggested she go to the dorm’s dining hall for lunch and “meet us back here” by the student store cafe. “No, I’d rather eat with you guys.” It wasn’t the decision of a shy, anxious, introverted first year, but that of a young woman who appreciates her family and wanted to enjoy our visit to the very end. Despite the antics of her perpetually silly family, there was never a hint of embarrassment, just a mix of fondness and gratitude.

A silver lining of the trip was the thoughtful way Fifteen seemed to process a visit to a neighboring college, her dad’s dinnertime parables, and her sister’s first day of college orientation. She’s always done well in school, but now I think she’s even more motivated to do her best.

The first five-six days at home have been different, but nice. Last week I bought a smaller piece of halibut, only half a gallon of chocolate milk, and the GalPal and I have had enjoyed more time alone.

And the inevitable, natural passing of time marches on.

Left to Right. . . Two College Women and a High Schooler Ponder Their Future

Fly Little Bird

Man enough to admit it. Tearing up listening to Eighteen playing the piano and singing downstairs. Thinking how much I’ll miss that. I’ve been suppressing how much I’m going to miss her daily presence when she leaves for college because the galpal has probably been emotional enough for both of us.

Tired of compensating.

Like the labradoodle, Eighteen is nearly always a positive presence. She was absent from school the day they distributed the “How to be a Surly Adolescence” guidebook. She learned early on to roll with my sarcasm (and return serve). Yesterday she said, “I didn’t know you’re going to Florida next week, I thought you were going to Yakima.” “That’s because you’re a self-absorbed teen, you’re really not expected to know those things.” Warm smile.

I’m going to miss her friends who poured in this week as a wisdom teeth extraction support team. I got them to eat leftover birthday cake and suggested they wash it down with chocolate milk so that they “could just get the freshmen fifteen over with”. Not stopping there, I suggested they go home and set their scales on 15lbs to ease the “psychological transition”. Of course I could only kid because they really could use a few more lbs.

Eighteen never seemed TOO embarrassed by me. She may have even enjoyed having me guest teach in her elementary classrooms and help coach her high school swim team (at least in 9th and 10th grade).

Come on man, toughen up. It’s a part of the natural cycle of life and it sure beats the alternative of being stuck at home without much vision. She’s going to kill it at college and in life. Couldn’t be more proud.

The silver lining is I’m going to savor Fifteen’s next three years. Center of attention. Groovy friends too who are at the age where they sometimes enjoy and always tolerate my antics.

Don’t even want to think about three years from now when she starts charting her own course.

Thinking in Decades

Seventeen, who will be eighteen shortly, grew up playing soccer. She was usually one of the weaker players on one of the better teams. Probably the fault of my genetics. Also, soccer was first and foremost social, so she hardly ever played between organized practices and games.

Her uneven play never bothered me because the effort was there, she usually enjoyed it, and she learned how to compete. At the beginning of high school, she applied those lessons to a new sport, swimming, and continues to improve in the water as a result.

This summer some of her former teammates and her formed a recreation team for one final run before they head off to different colleges. No practices, just two games a week. Last night was the final game so I thought I better turn up.

Arriving late, I see the opposing team’s forward streaking down the field all alone set to go in for an easy chip shot. But wait, Seventeen has the angle and she’s FLYING and she disrupts the girl’s momentum just in the nick of time. Is that my daughter? Amazing. A parent tells me she had rolled her ankle pretty badly a few minutes earlier.

I detect a slight limp, but she’s a gamer, loving every minute of it. No pressure, playing with great friends, for FUN. She’s a different player than I’ve ever seen, relaxed, confident, making smart pass after smart pass, checking girls, face red, sweating, focused, animated, just plain getting after it.

Parents, teachers, all adults who work with young people often suffer from “present tense myopia”. We get mired in young people’s physical and social awkwardness without any sense of their more physically and socially competent future selves.

I remember when Seventeen was in second or third grade and was making lots of simple spelling errors (yeah, yeah, probably the fault of my genetics). An elementary education colleague suggested “chilling” because it would naturally improve given her love of reading. He was right.

Parents should prominently display a “This too shall pass” sign somewhere in their kitchen as a reminder that children are constantly evolving.

In the end, it’s far less important how capable a seven or eight year old is in football, baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, swimming, spelling, reading, writing, or math than a seventeen or eighteen year old.

What a kick (pun intended) watching Seventeen last night. Nurture and support the young and then expect them to surprise you too.