young athletes are like sponges
More than any 7 year old I’ve ever met.
And after working in youth fitness and athletic settings all over the world, the number of 7 year olds I’ve met is proportionally higher than normal for most adults.
My stepson has become my world.
That’s still such an odd thing for me to write or say; stepson.
But at 36 and somewhat unexpectedly, I became ‘Daddy’ in late February of this year.
My fiancée Carrie came in a bundle package that included a new home, new country of residence and two wonderfully charming children.
I suppose it would be normal for me to admit that my first days of Dad-hood were strife-like affairs and strewn with involuntary visceral feelings of me wanting to run and hide.
I had been a bachelor for some time and grown accustom to coming, going and doing as I pleased.
The rigidness of bedtimes, homework responsibilities, ‘eat-your-greens’ lessons, 3am wake-up calls due to nightmares and the occasional temper tantrum were issues I had no real preparation for – and the sightlines from which I viewed life over the past several years weren’t anything akin to this new reality.
But I took to it like water.
At my core, I adore children.
The impetus of such a statement coming from “The Youth Fitness Guy” seems reasonable enough, I presume. But to my honest shock, It seemed that the years I spent working in youth fitness and sports settings were actually qualifying backdrops from which I gained many valuable tutorials on how to be ‘Dad’.
The ‘Art of Communication’ found within the IYCA ‘Youth Fitness Specialist – Level 1’ certification served me well; my 7-year-old boy is very much a highly motivated, highly skilled young man – in every sense of the word. He has tendencies to dip into the realm of ‘low motivation’ at times, but understanding the communicative elements of how he is inspired has been a relatively easy process.
My 5-year-old little princess enjoys a demeanor very much befitting her royal and stately nickname – a ‘Princess’ in every manner of description associated with that word. She’s learned that she can pretty much get anything from me she wants; at her discretion and requiring only a gentle voice coupled with a specific glint in her eye. She’s mastered it, to be honest.
In any event, this year has been a profound one for me in many ways.
At the risk of taking up too much of your time or boring you into unconsciousness with tales of my home life (for the record, I completely ‘get’ why all new parents have the annoying inclination of constantly wanting to talk about their kids) let me get to my point and hope that this story concludes with as much life-changing power as it did for me…
I’ve long taught that children are sponges.
They learn, reproduce and become what they see, hear and are exposed to.
That lesson serves as an incredible milieu to the IYCA’s educational system at large.
But there has been a side of that undeniable fact that in hindsight I suppose I should have been prepared for, but admit to having been caught off guard by when it happened only 3 weeks ago.
And the emotion I felt from the experience is something I can still generate at a moment’s notice – like right now (12:08am December 24, 2010).
It was a typical Wednesday night.
Homework being pounded out on the breakfast bar; me in the kitchen tending to dinner, Mom’s watchful eye overseeing the studious young academics.
“If you get lucky, Mrs. Whitmore won’t give you too much homework to do over the weekend”, Carrie said in an attempt to shine some attention on the light at the end of the tunnel as the homework portion of our nightly routine was coming to a close.
“I make my own luck”, responded my 7-year-old.
My head snapped up from the stove. I had the immediate urge to reprimand him for being ‘smart’ to his Mom, but something in what he said made me second guess my initial line of action.
“What did you just say?” I asked him.
He looked up timidly; the tone of my voice was sharper than I had intended it to be.
More softly I repeated “What did you just say to Mommy?”
“That I make my own luck”, he offered gently; entirely unsure if he was actually in trouble.
I laughed to make sure he was off-guarded and relaxed. “Where did you learn that?” I quizzed him cheerfully.
“From you” was his surprising response.
I looked at Carrie and saw an equally uncertain look starring back at me. I opted to drop the subject for the time being.
Fast forward to bed time…
He was snuggled in and looking fully prepared for a good night’s slumber.
Away from his sister and while all was quiet, I decided to ask him again where he had heard that phrase – “I make my own luck”.
He looked down and rather sheepish. A gentle and reassuring vocal prod from Carrie worked its typical magic; he raised his head and looked me straight in the eye.
“Sometimes when I’m supposed to be sleeping, I come out of bed and sit at the stairs. I listen to you talk to your friends on the phone”.
It took me a couple of seconds to understand what he meant.
Many of my business calls come at night; Pat Rigsby, Dr. Kwame Brown, Nick Berry… My friends.
“Am I in trouble?” he asked quite concerned.
“Not at all”, I told him.
He seemed more relaxed and brazen to finish his story; what would amount to a lesson for me.
“I know I’m little, but I pay attention. I listen and I really do understand”, he said with great enthusiasm.
“I create my own luck. Hard work is the key to success. Imagine what you want to be and then do it. I listen every night”.
I was a combination of shell-shocked, emotional and amused.
He continued with a final sentence before we said our goodnight’s…
“I need to work hard. I need to dream big. If I do those things, I can make whatever I want”.
A lesson that is 100% guaranteed to propel me into 2011 with great intention and drive.
Pay close attention to what you say around your young athletes…
They’re listening. And they understand.
My warmest thoughts to you and sincerest hopes for your ‘dream’ 2011.