This batch of 10 Takeaways is going to be devoted to our amazing, almost 10-year-old daughter. It’ll have a little basketball in there, but it’s mostly just a way for me to get some thoughts out about this incredible, better-than-I’ll-ever-be person.
1. It took years, but I finally might have made some headway with the whole getting her to like basketball movement! For reference, I’ve tried to get her to love my favorite sport since she was about two. When she was young, she loved Isaiah Thomas. She’d watch him play. If he checked out, so did she. No matter how much I explained that he’d come back in, if her guy was out, she was out.
At any rate, I’ve been talking to her and my wife about “The Last Dance” and how excited I was for it to premiere. A lot. I mean, a lot, a lot. Partially because of my excitement and partially because extending bed time is a never-ending war of attrition in our house, she asked if she would stay up and watch.
Do good parents let their kid stay up until 11:00 PM on what is essentially a school-night? Probably not. Do good parents let their kid stay up and watch the uncensored version of a basketball documentary? Probably even less.
My rationale? It’s virtual school. If she’s tired, she can take a nap later in the day. (Yeah right!) And the cussing? She hears worse throughout Patriots games during the fall.
Mostly, it meant the world to me that she was wanting to watch. I didn’t push it, but played it cool. “It’s fine with me if Mommy says it’s ok.” Pro tip: Always make it the other parent’s decision when your kid wants to skip bedtime. If they say no, you’re the cool one. If they say yes and the next day is a disaster, it’s their fault for saying yes.
So, we settled in and watched. The next few takeaways are things she thought about “The Last Dance”.
2. “Wow! It really was like he could fly!” Said after watching highlights of Michael Jordan soar. It was kind of my “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” moment.
3. “What happened to guy with all the crazy hair that was all different colors? Is anyone going to explain that?” Ummm… maybe we shouldn’t be watching the uncensored version.
4. Overall, it was a super cool experience. She had other comments about the poor quality of the picture of old games. (“You really had to watch like that? It’s awful!”) And she had a few comments on the hairstyles and the way people dressed. Mostly, she sat there pretty quietly and absorbed it all. After, I asked her if she liked it and she replied, “Yeah. It was really cool. They were a really good team, but didn’t seem to like each other. I want to hear the rest of the story.”
Whether that’s just a ploy to stay up late for the next month or not, I’ll take it!
5. Living here in Central Florida, it’s been a while since our daughter has been at school. As COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, she was on spring break. They extended that a week, while everyone tried to figure out what was going on. Since then, it’s been virtual school for a month. Now, schools are closed for the rest of the school year.
Virtual school is going pretty well. As kids her age tend to be, she’s great with technology. She’s even taught mom and dad a few things about Zoom! Her teachers are amazing (shoutout Mrs. Crocker and Miss Kennedy and Mrs. Lisa!). Their patience with and dedication and love for their students is evident. I went to school to be a teacher. My degree is in education. Being a part-time teacher at home right now is enough of that for a lifetime. Her teachers deserve every penny they are getting and millions and millions more of those pennies on top of it!
6. Our daughter loves school. I mean loves it. She’s curious and intelligent and can’t wait to learn new things. But school isn’t just about learning. It’s about seeing her friends. By the end of the additional week of spring break, she was jonesing to see her friends. That first Zoom meeting told us all of her classmates were feeling the same way.
The cacophony of squeals of delight and talking over each other was amazing. These kids have literally grown up together. Our daughter has some classmates she’s been with since they were in daycare in diapers. I think we underestimated how much they love and rely on each other for daily interaction.
7. As with all kids, there are groups of best friends. Our daughter’s group is called J.A.A.M.B (pronounced JAM) after all their initials of their first names. Our daughter is the B and we once asked “Why not JAMBA or something, you don’t pronounce the B in JAAMB.” We were duly informed: “That’s the joke. The B is silent, because the B is never actually silent!” Touché!
At any rate, most of the members of JAAMB are of the age where they have their own phones now. Out daughter has her phone because we sometimes leave her home alone for quick trips to the store and the like. It’s also a godsend when we go on long car rides to soccer games. So, the members of JAAMB exchanged numbers at the end of last week.
Oh boy…it was chaotic. Our daughter loves Harry Potter, so her ringtone is, of course, “Hedwig’s Theme” with those iconic opening notes. I’m not exaggerating when I say that at least once every 10 minutes, one member of JAAMB was calling or facetiming another member. Often, it turned into a group call. The only silence was when they were already on a call together.
Silence? Ha! More like racket. Five 9-10-year-old girls can make a lot of noise, even virtually!
As I sat in our home office (right near her bedroom) trying to work on an article, I could feel my anger and frustration starting to rise. Then I took a deep breath and paused. I listened to their inanity of their conversation. I listened to their giggles. I listened to their unexpressed, but clear love for each other. I smiled, felt my anger and frustration subside, and went about my day. With my earbuds in.
8. Our daughter’s other primary social circle is her soccer team. Much like JAAMB, some of these girls have been together since they were 4-5 years old playing developmental soccer. For up to four days a week, they are together. If we have a tournament, it’s for an entire day. Much like myself growing up, she’s making more memories in those times in between games than in the games themselves.
Fortunately, her club (shouts to Florida Rush!), remains committed to their players during this shutdown. They are doing virtual sessions where everyone jumps on Zoom. The coaches go through some training and drills and watch everyone go through it. Our routine for 2-4 nights a week is to bring the laptop to the front yard and she has at it. At first the neighbors were curious, now it’s just a thing. It’s funny how quickly we adjust to new norms.
Her coach does something else that is really cool. At the end of each session, he logs out and leaves the girls on Zoom by themselves for 10-15 minutes. It’s their time. We’ve virtually met more pets and gone on virtual house tours than you can imagine. But it’s their time to bond. And they need it.
9. Is there frustration? Every single day. Our daughter is almost 10. She’s pretty self-sufficient. That’s both good and bad. The good parts are that she needs very little help with the virtual classroom stuff. One of my wife and I’s favorite part of each day is when she comes in and says “I have a meeting at 8:30, then another one at 9:00 and the last one at 10:30.” and then marches off to get to it. She’s heard us talk about our work schedules for years, now she can be a part of it.
Quick aside, one of the funniest moments this past month was this interaction:
Her: (multiple groans, sighs and general sounds of frustration)
Us: “What’s wrong B?”
Her: (big sigh) “I was in meetings all day. Now I have all this work to do. How can they expect us to get all this work done and do meetings all day?”
Welcome to the real-world kid!
But while that interaction was brief and funny, others haven’t been. We aren’t overly demanding parents, but we expect her to help around the house in addition to school and soccer. In return, we are pretty chill about her watching loads of TV or playing Nintendo Switch for hours. Especially right now.
This weekend, we all had enough. My wife, in need of break, took on this week’s trip to the store. That left me and B in the house together for a while. After the umpteenth ask when trash and recycling would go out, I got the death stare followed by the tears. As I asked what was wrong, the tears came harder.
“I’m stressed. I hate this. I miss my friends. I miss school. I miss soccer. I just want to live my life. And all you care about is my chores.”
She has the power to lift me up, but she has the power to take me down really quick too.
Fortunately, it was nothing that a good long hug and some jokes couldn’t fix.
10. It’s easy for us to forget she’s got her stress too. She’s old enough to fully understand what the coronavirus pandemic is all about. She gets that people are dying. She worries about her grandparents, aunt and uncle and her cousins. She gets why she hasn’t left our house/yard in over a month, minus a couple of trips in the car to get ice cream.
But she’s also not quite 10 years old. She misses her life and routine. She misses her friends. She misses playing soccer. She misses going to the store. She knows she’s not having a birthday party in couple of weeks. She knows we had to cancel summer camp. She knows all those things suck.
She also knows daddy got furloughed by the places that were providing all of his steady income. She knows mommy got to stay working, but now has to do the work of a whole department of people almost all by herself. She knows mom and dad are figuring out how to make this new world work.
She knows dad is the one who stresses. That dad misses basketball not just because he loves it, because it’s his livelihood. She knows that dad is worried about how to keep paying bills. She knows daddy needed “The Last Dance” and that’s why she sat with him and watched the whole first two hours.
Most important, she knows when dad is struggling and the weight of all of this is just too much. She doesn’t retreat to her room and hide or pick a fight. In those moments, she knows sometimes a long hug and some jokes really can fix everything.