My son is visibly upset after a tough-to-swallow basketball loss. His saves his first words for me until we get into the car. “Five minutes left in the third quarter,” he says. This is the moment when, delayed by traffic and lack of familiarity with the game location, I finally walked into the gym. I sputtered excuses as guilt worked me over.
To make matters worse, the boy’s coach was also AWOL, a victim of car trouble, so that when I finally arrived an unfamiliar coach was trying to install a new offense on the fly. I later learned that there were no coaches at all when my son’s team first pulled in. The ref took Bubba aside after the game, not to chastise him on the hard foul he gave in the fourth quarter, but to compliment him on his maturity and to thank him for organizing his peers and getting a team on the court to start the game.
My first resolution was to never miss a game again, never to cut it close, never to squeeze in those last few emails before leaving the office. Hell, I’d start camping out at the game locations the night before. Looking back on it, I could now clearly see the negative impact on his play. Never again.
But as the evening wore on, I started reflecting on my own experience. Had my dad been at every game? An awful lot. I remember he flew all the way from Texas to see so many of my Dartmouth freshman football games, that my teammates began to suspect that he was a scout. I remember the endless hours spend in stuffy gyms for wrestling tournaments with mom and dad faithfully catering from the snack bar. But were they there for everything? Is that the standard?
My son’s performance suffered when I wasn’t there. So should I arrange to always be there? Or should I seek some way to fortify him such that he can meet his potential even when a parent isn’t there? Maybe I should be absent more often, not less.
There’s only one problem with the “allow my son to build up his internal resources by being less present” theory — I really, really love going to the games. I loved going to his b-team 6th grade basketball.