My first season as a sports dad came to an end, and it happened a lot faster than I expected.
People always tell me “It goes by so fast” when it comes to parenting, and I’ve found that to be true in retrospect. When you’re up all night with a crying baby, it isn’t moving fast at all. But this basketball season flew by. When I first saw that schedule, I was both overwhelmed and confused. I thought the middle of February would never get here. I imagined myself zipping from one game to another or one practice to another forever. Yet, here we are, a column running a week or two after Tim’s last game, and it’s done.
I think I finally saw what “It goes by so fast” means. Tim’s activity was a small blip in my calendar. Life went on pretty much as it always did, but we had to carve out a little extra time for games and practices. When the rest of life seems uninterrupted, things do seem to go faster. Tim tended to notice the approach of games before I did. At the end of the season, we realized how many people we meant to invite to games and never got around to inviting. We kept thinking there will be another, that we had time, and we didn’t.
The progress he made on the court was probably the best indicator of time passing. He is growing more confident. He got a basket, he got some rebounds, he even got a steal. When we had a nice day in the middle of February, he asked to go to the park, but wanted to go to the basketball courts first. We played there the longest, and he occasionally looked over at the older kids playing together under other baskets, and I wonder what he thought. Did he see himself with his friends there one day? Did he think he was so small compared to them? One day, Tim will go play basketball at the park, and he won’t ask me to play with him. It’s a while away, but I know what Future Me will think.
That’s the problem: retrospect. We condense time in our memories, enduring hours of sameness that feel like forever only to remember them as fleeting moments, if we remember them at all. As time goes on, we have more time to compare our moments to, and those moments increasingly fly. If we ever defeat aging, I wonder what a 150-year-old future human will think as time flies. Selfishly, I hope Tim gets to be one of those future humans. If anyone deserves more moments and time to have fly, it’s my little guy. But, even if it flies faster, we’ll still miss small moments and be bored in dull ones. We’ll compress them and think about how fast things went by.
I’ve been trying to have less to regret in retrospect. That’s why when Tim said he wanted to play basketball, I made it work. It’s why I went to the park with him on a nice day. Sure, I had work to do, but I can get that done when he’s asleep. Right now, my boy wants to go shoot hoops at the park, and it’s a beautiful day, so off we went.
He jokingly asked if we could get ice cream on the way back. He always asks that in the summer, and I occasionally oblige. I laughed, not wanting to go to McDonald’s to discover that the ice cream machine was broken in February. But, in retrospect, what could it have hurt to try? We rarely get days like that in the “shortest” – and my least-favorite – month, so what would a trip around the drive-through lane to discover that the machine was broken have cost me? Still, that ice cream denial didn’t dim Tim’s time at the park. He’s used to not getting everything he wants, and he’s learning to focus on the good things instead of letting a momentary bad one ruin a memory.
We got home, and Tim shot a few more shots at the hoop at our driveway, and I looked at the schedule of the final game coming thinking it’ll be a while before we’re zipping to one school or another to watch these kids play basketball. Then, that last game came, and the season ended on a high note. Undefeated. The coaches, who have been awesome all season long, had T-shirts ready. (I bet they were a little nervous at halftime when the score was close.) Tim missed out on a few games when Joy and I got COVID, but no one made him feel like he was less of a part of the team because of it. He was there for much of the season and got better with each game. Next year, he’ll be even better, and so will those other boys who played their hearts out this season. And, sure, they won’t be undefeated forever, but they had one amazing first season together.
It goes by so fast, these seasons of my son’s life. Sports seasons, doubly so. I look forward to the next season of being a sports dad, and I never thought I’d say that about myself.
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