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.

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