Davis (4), our very inquisitive and intense first-born, recently posed a question to me: “Daddy, why don’t I have any trophies?”
Unlike many of his interrogatories, this one wasn’t completely out of left field. He and I were the first ones up, and we were watching the beginning of the day’s first Wimbledon “gentleman’s singles semifinal” tennis match. I was attempting to impart the nature of a semifinal and had tried to break it down for Davis by explaining that the winner of this match would go on to play the winner of the next match. And when those two winners played each other, they would be playing to win the whole championship. And, of course, the trophy.
So, naturally, the logical conclusion to that explanation was Davis’ sudden realization that his proverbial and literal trophy case was as of yet empty. My answer to his query: “You haven’t yet played a sport.”
Just as it wasn’t completely random, the trophy question isn’t the only one of its kind. Lately there have been questions such as “When can I play baseball?” and requests like “I want to play soccer.” These new questions and requests are, in our view, quite positive for a few reasons.
First, and perhaps obviously, Julia and I are glad that Davis is interested in trying out a sport or three. Both Davis and his little brother, Hudson, have taken to sports rather naturally. Baseball, football, basketball, soccer, golf, tennis, and swimming have each taken a turn as the sport of the moment. But each of these has been a family endeavor – baseball and soccer in the backyard, football and wrestling on the trampoline, basketball on the Little Tikes hoop in the kitchen, swimming at our neighbor’s pool, some semblance of golf on the driving range, tennis with a basket of balls and little sister Ella Marie watching from her line judge station in the jogger. The interest in and emphasis on being a part of a team or competition with peers is a new and sad (he’s growing up so fast) but healthy development.
The second reason we have welcomed Davis’ newfound interest in organized sports is that it has helped to prove our working hypothesis on this particular parenting experiment. Our attempt to answer the over-arching question of when to start your kids in organized sports has been to say, “We’ll know when they’re ready.” I guess that’s really just playing it by ear when you don’t have a better answer. But, at the same time, we thought we would know when the time came.
One Saturday morning this spring, I took the boys to the nearby Little League baseball fields where several games were in progress. Davis first wanted to know how old the kids were, and I told him some of the players were barely older than him. He watched intently, asking periodic questions about what was going on and why. We later found a forgotten baseball under the metal bleachers. All Davis wanted to do the rest of the weekend was practice hitting that baseball. He had taken plenty of mental notes on our outing and was ready to mimic what he saw, perfectly content to do so within the friendly confines of our backyard with me pitching to him. Now, in the span of just a few months, it seems he’s ready to leave the backyard for the actual diamond.
The third main reason we have enthusiastically welcomed Davis’ organized sport inquiries at this particular time… he hadn’t already played a season or two before his interest sparked. The last thing we wanted to do was involve our kids in organized sports too early in their little lives. From the selfish parent standpoint, this would have meant essentially a waste of time, money, and energy. But, more importantly, from a wanting-the-best-for-your-kids perspective, this would have meant us organizing and scheduling away a portion of that precious, fleeting childhood freedom.
Alas, now it’s time to get organized and start grooming our first future Wimbledon champion.