Note: This column originally ran in the Sept. 17 News-Gazette.
I came home the other night to find my computer full of links to sports stats and online draft information.
This is not unusual; I have lived with a sportswriter for almost 20 years.
In our pre-children days, it was not unusual to find our family room full of grown men playing sports video games and/or poring over rosters for their fantasy baseball/basketball/football leagues. It was serious business.
He is a chip off the old block — or blocks, actually.
When he was younger, he was my boy-clone. If you look at my first-grade class photo, it’s my son in a wig. Scary.
Thankfully, he now takes more after his dad. They are both what we like to call “plainatarians” — no condiments, ma’am. Minimum requirements on vegetables. Sour candy over chocolate. Snacky-McSnackersons.
And don’t even think about trying to out-stat them. My husband quotes scores from games in 1971. My son can give you a play-by-play of an entire baseball game (or movie), which can be a bit taxing.
Last year, I was asked to predict scores for 10 football games each week as part of a News-Gazette panel. Shockingly (because I’m a girl, I guess) I won. Truth be told, I let my son pick almost every week (which I fully acknowledged at the time). I overruled him once; I was wrong.
It’s only natural that our kids take after us — for better or for worse. The trick is to emphasize the former.
Recently, after enduring the 1,927th televised sporting event of the year, I marched into the family room and said, perhaps a tad impatiently, “Can we please watch something else for a change?” My husband willingly handed over the remote.
A few minutes later, when “I Hate My Kitchen” went to a commercial, my daughter walked in. A product of the DVR age, she looked at the television, looked at us, and said, in that disdainful ’tween way, “You’re watching commercials?”
Without missing a beat, my husband replied, “I can hardly tell you two are related.”
Yikes. It’s like listening to a tape-recording of me, and it’s not always pretty.
Mostly, though, it’s fun. My daughter loves horses, like I did as a child. She loves pot stickers and pad Thai, and writing stories and reading for hours. Both my kids love mystery books and detective shows the way I did — and my mom did before me.
I see the same thing in other families, especially now that our children are older. My daughter’s friend, once too shy to speak to most adults, is now the life of the party. She hams it up in every group photo, caring little what others think and just enjoying life. It’s her mom all over again.
(Let’s not bring up the time we visited my mother-in-law and she noticed I was dressing my toddler just like me: Red shirt and khakis. Blue shirt and jeans. Inadvertent, but still ... kinda freaky.)
So what happens when they go the other way? The completely opposite-of-how-I-would-do-it-way?
I loved ballet as a kid, and I loved taking my daughter to the “Teeny Ballereenies” class at the Urbana Park District. She took more serious lessons for a year and danced in “The Nutcracker.” But she didn’t love it the way I did.
She likes sports but doesn’t live for them like her dad and brother do.
She dutifully played baseball through Peanut League, but that was it. She likes basketball and swimming but has no use for soccer. She’s more of a theater (as in, director) type.
Every psychologist worth his or her salt warns parents not to try to live through our children — or to force them to pursue the dreams that were just out of our reach.
And yet, it’s our job to guide them, too. It’s only natural to want to help them learn from our mistakes, avoid our heartaches, take advantage of opportunities we never had (or just missed).
I practically forced my son to take band because I always regretted not taking music lessons as a kid. Thankfully, he liked it.
My daughter took to music willingly, begging for piano lessons. When it came time for her to start band this year, I assumed she’d go with the saxophone like her brother. We even made plans to buy a new (used) sax for him and let her use his old one.
To my surprise, she chose trombone, not sax. Just to be sure, we talked it over with her band teacher, and she tried both instruments again. But she stuck to her guns, at least for now. I was very conscious of not influencing her — too much.
It’s her life, after all. And she knows her mind. Kind of like her mom.
As I write this, my son is agonizing over draft picks for his fantasy football team. He confers constantly with his dad, who has lots of advice. But in the end, he makes his own decisions.
With his track record, I think he’ll do OK.
Julie Wurth blogs about families and kids and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Leave a comment below, or contact her at 217-351-5226, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on on Twitter @jawurth.
!. The son of former Illini assistant basketball coach Jerrance Howard, Jay, had more than a dozen pair of athletic shoes at just two months of age.
2. Wiko Alleman and her daughter Catherine in a 2009 photo.
4. Christopher Span and son Langston Span in a 2009 photo.
3. Mother Noreen Acton Daughter Alyssa in a 2009 photo.
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