Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bend it like Beckham . . . or not.

Some friends and I were enjoying our weekly breakfast at one of our local “home cooking” establishments when a small boy, about two years old ran past our table. A young father cut him off before he could make a lap around the entire restaurant. Most of us sitting at the table, young fathers’ ourselves, could understand his challenge and in an effort to comfort the father, one of our group said, “At least he’s fast!”

The father responded, “I just want him to be good at something.”

We all laughed, but at the same time, we all understood. As a father, you simply want your children to be really good at something. Unfortunately, the law of averages suggests that most people are simply . . . well . . . average at most things. But that doesn’t stop us from searching. While we all might be average at most things, ultimately, we are all good at something. So we help our children search to find that thing they are good at.

Our family search recently landed on soccer. We signed my four year old up to play in a local soccer league. He was excited about the opportunity to run and kick, but a little unclear about the fundamentals of the game. The following events sum up his soccer experience.

After scoring his first goal of the game (in the right goal), the coach had placed our son in a defensive position, directly between the other team and the goal. He was excited about this opportunity; however, as the other team brought the ball down the field, our son was distracted by something on his hand. A girl who had an early growth spurt, was quickly approaching, controlling the ball like a seasoned professional, the only thing that could prevent her from scoring was our son. Unfortunately, despite the rising cheers from the parents in the stands, my son stayed focused on his hand and whatever sticky/dirty/gooey/bug had found itself there.

Initially, I thought this was the opportunity for my son to become the breakout soccer star I believed he could be. This was his opportunity to be “good” at something. However, as this girl with the soccer ball down bore down on his position on the field, I began to fear for his safety as the impact with a child twice his side would have been devastating (especially when he never saw it coming). Nonetheless, my son never glanced up and never moved. At the last moment, the girl shifted slightly and blew right by my son, within inches of running him over and scored a goal. Whatever was on my son’s hand must have been really cool, because as she sliced past him, he never flinched. It wasn’t till the cheers of the crowd erupted that he knew something was up and in response; he raised his hands as if he just scored the winning goal. I couldn’t help but laugh and celebrate with him.

When he got to the sideline, I asked him, “What’s on your hand?”

He simply said, “There is nothing on my hand, Daddy!”

Of course there wasn’t, why would I think there was anything on his hand?

So, he won’t bend it like Beckham just yet. But as a father, I need not fear, ALL children are good at something and my son, and the child in the restaurant, will find their something . . . even if it is running laps in a restaurant or finding cool dirt on your hands.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Waiting for Superman . . . still waiting . . . waiting . . .

I always fancied myself as a modern day Superman. I believed I could be a hero. Unfortunately, I have learned I am more closely related to a modern day Clark Kent. I wear glasses, I’m somewhat awkward, a little nerdy, and not the picture of a modern day hero. Fortunately for my dream, there is always a phone booth around the corner. (Writers note; “a phone booth around the corner” is a phrase used to make a connection between my heroic opportunities and the original Superman, who changed into his outfit in a phone booth when heroic opportunities presented themselves. However, since the increased usage of cellular phones, there are actually very few phone booths available anywhere. In fact, the last one I saw was in Washington D.C. and I wouldn’t want to get into that thing to make a call, much less, strip off my clothes and get into tights and a cape, but I digress.)

Recently, I turned the corner and found my phone booth. My wife was driving home from a meeting and gave me a call. The tire on her car had blown and was flat and she was stuck on the side of the road and needed help . . . a hero’s help. This was my moment, where was my cape?!?!

What was my heroic response? I said, in a most loving tone, “I don’t have time for this!”

What did you expect? I told you I was more like Clark Kent. In my effort to be a hero, when a heroic opportunity knocked at my door, I stumbled all over myself trying to find a phone booth. “Stumbled all over myself,” probably isn’t the right term. I yelled, “I’m not home!” when opportunity knocked at my door. Superman never left a damsel in distress, I left my wife waiting on the side of the road for her Superman. Pretty sad, eh? Well, the good news is, I redeemed myself (or at least I tried), when shortly after my less-than supportive comments on the phone, I rushed out the door and changed the tire in record time.

Later that same week, I came down with a stomach virus and laid in bed for two days. Superman had kryptonite. I had a microscopic virus. During this same time, my wife was fighting what seemed to be the same virus. The difference, you ask? I laid in bed, my wife cleaned the house, cared for the kids, and took care of her Superman (who moaned and groaned about how awful he felt).

In review, it was not my most heroic week. In fact, in comparison to my wife, it was downright pathetic. However, there was a lesson in the events of this week. Everyone can be a hero, some of us do it by taking care of a family, some of us change tires, and some of us run to a phone booth and change into tights and a cape (a legal note; it is probably not wise to change clothes in a public place, particularly if you are wearing tights and a cape).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Closest I came to American Idol

I have engaged in an on-going debate with our family’s digital camera. Apparently, this mischievous piece of technological equipment enjoys antagonizing me by taking a picture of me and replacing my picture with an unattractive, fat guy in my spot. Every time I see my picture, I am shocked and insulted by what I see.

“I don’t look like that!” I yell at this expensive paper weight only to be met by with an antagonistic silence which sounds like a shrill, evil laugh in my mind (don’t question my sanity, my wife is a licensed professional counselor and she only has mild concerns about my mental health).

I had a similar experience in high school. My senior year, I had the opportunity to take a few elective courses and because the choices were limited, one of those classes was our school choir. The choir director was excited to have me as she did not have many boys in the choir. I was excited because I fancied myself as a budding rock-n-roll star and thought that this might be the experience that launched my career into stardom.

As I excitedly participated in the first couple days of class, I realized that there was much more to joining a choir than belting out my favorite songs. I had to read and understand music and deliver lyrics in tune. After the third day of class, the teacher asked me to stay over. I was excited as I thought she must have recognized my talent and might be prepared to offer me the lead in the upcoming musical or at least a solo in the next choir event.

“Matt, I have been listening closely and evaluating your singing techniques and skill and . . .”

“You want to give me the lead?!?!” I interrupted.

“Well, no,” she responded, “actually, I was wondering if you could not sing.”

I was confused, “Not sing the solo?”

She was sheepish and clearly a little embarrassed about making her request, “Well, no, I mean . . . just not sing at all.”

I was devastated. “Not sing at all? What do you want me to do?”

“Can you just mouth the words, but not actually sing?” she asked.

“But this is choir, I am supposed to sing.” I argued.

“That is what makes this conversation so hard, please don’t sing.” She repeated. “If I can’t sing, can’t you teach me, you’re the ‘teacher’?” I begged.

“I am sorry Matt, you are beyond help.”

As you might expect, that was my last day in choir.

I have a good friend here in town who explains this as the ‘American Idol Syndrome’. If you’ve ever watched the first few weeks of this reality show, you will see a number of contestants who come on the show to try out for a chance to go to Hollywood, only to be met with brutal honesty that they are simply terrible singers and should not do it in public. The significance of understanding this “syndrome” is to help us realize that most of us have an inconsistent understanding of how the world sees us (not just in singing ability, but in general), or better stated, a lack of self-awareness. Knowing that our perception of ourselves may be inconsistent with that of the world makes us more self-aware . . . or I can just stomp out the evil laughter coming from our current digital camera and buy a better one.