When my siblings and I were growing up, we were all very active – , martial arts, basketball, baseball, dance – you name it, we probably tried it.
This came at no small sacrifice on the part of our parents, as they managed the required of couples who are outnumbered by their children.
Many weekend mornings I remember my father loading swim bags and at least one kid (sometimes more) into the car. The subsequent drive to the pool could be 20 minutes or two hours, depending on the location of the meet.
Although most meets restricted the deck to swimmers, officials and coaches only, I never had trouble finding my father when I looked up in the stands.
He was the one sitting there reading a book.
When it came time for one of us to swim, he put his reading aside, cheered us on, recorded the time on his meet program—just in case we wanted to know what it was later—and then went back to his book.
I’m still not sure how he managed to catch every event, but I suspect it’s some multitasking superpower that one gets when he or she becomes a parent.
At the end of the day, he told us what a great job we did, and we piled back into the car for the trip home—usually to repeat the process the next day.
That support wasn’t just limited to games and meets. My father regularly got up early to sign us up for lessons, camps, leagues and other activities.
I didn’t appreciate this aspect of my childhood—that, for almost every sporting event, I could look up and find either parent watching and cheering—until I was much older. Now, as an adult with comparatively fewer responsibilities, I wonder how my parents made it work.
I can barely wake up—much less cheerfully—for events where I’m participating. The thought of sacrificing valuable weekend sleep for someone else, over and over again, makes me cringe just a little bit.
But I know I’ll do it one day, because my mother and father set the bar for what support should be. And I know their encouragement, and the fact that they made it possible for any of us to pursue activities we loved, is one of the reasons that I’m still active today.
The sacrifice of time and gift of constant encouragement—by both of my parents —helped teach me the importance of an active, healthy lifestyle.
Although my siblings and I are adults now, my parents still take a positive interest in our activities. I don’t subject them to the long, uneventful spectator experience that is distance running, but they always ask how an event went after the fact. Not too long ago, they toted their camping chairs across a field in Frederick (about 40 minutes northwest of Columbia) to see my sister play rugby.
I went along to cheer, too. When I looked across the field I saw my dad, sitting in his folding chair and watching the game, clapping and cheering when play neared the sideline.
I hope I’ve said it over the years, not just on Father’s Day, but thanks Dad.
Thanks for the early morning waits to sign up for swimming lessons, the long treks to school after hours to pick us up from extracurricular activities, and the weekends spent at all-day meets or games.
Thanks for helping me to become a happy, healthy, active adult.
And Happy Father’s Day.