Tuesday, September 09, 2008

More than survival

My wife and I have now been together, as a couple, for over a year. Our love is deeper and our affection stronger than it was during the most exciting part of our courtship. Joseph Campbell recommends that one follow his bliss. Liberty = bliss. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Scout just got back from a week of vacation with her father, and Liberty and she were very happy to see each other. It was clear that she had been coached on who Daddy is during the trip. "You are Curtis," she said to me shortly after she got back, "you are my step-father." And for a while I was Curtis, and no one said Daddy in the house, pointedly, to see what would happen. An hour later, though, I was Daddy more often than not, and I try not to attribute too much meaning to that, as I'm sure it flips the other way when she's with him. He's Daddy, I'm Curtis. Plus, I don't think I'm in the running for favorite man in her life, that was settled shortly after she was born.

The Daddy issue can be pretty touchy for parents (especially when you're younger and age hasn't softened your rage or boosted your confidence yet), but it's been my experience that the word itself has no special meaning for children, despite all our assumptions, and the perceived correlation between petnames and love. The love a child has for a parent doesn't change with the name. For example, we took Scout to our family reunion back in early August, and she met lots of doting aunts and grandmas who held her on their lap, swung with her on the porch swing, etc. To each of them, she recounted something great she had done at "David's house." "I saw Kung-Fu Panda at David's house." "I have new shoes at David's house." So, clearly, he's the first man in her life, and I accept my position as second fiddle.

Stacey's second soccer game was on Monday, and we had a resounding 2 - 0 victory against a skilled opponent. She played goalie again in the first half, and found some relief from her anxiety about being scored on in the first game. We talked ahead of time about staying between the goal posts and the 6 yard box, and sprinting out to the 18 only when she needed to. During Monday's game, she needed to a lot, thwarting many drives, stubbing her fingers once in the process when she grabbed at a ball that was being kicked. She sprinted out and grabbed about four or five balls, once in a bizarre three on one situation, where the opponents were seriously offside and the ref didn't seem to notice. Without hesitating, she ran out to meet the group of three, and grabbed the ball away from the dribbler before she could take the shot. Risky, done with full commitment. Beautiful. As Billie Jean King says: "Be bold. If you're going to make an error, make a doozey." Her ten teammates were singing her praises, and I was a proud father.

We're 2 and 0 now, and I don't know if our luck will hold for the remainder of the season, or exactly what has led us to win both our scrimmages and our first two games. However, I have noticed some differences between me and the other coaches, and between my girls and the other teams. First, we don't do team-building rituals with chants or callbacks... "be aggressive, be aggressive, be aggressive", (coach)"Are we tired?!" (team)"NO!", or even the pre-game circle with hands in the middle "Go (mascot)!" Second, I have them practice getting around a defender during warm-up, not just taking a shot on goal. I go out and play fullback, and they have to get around me to take a shot... and I'm a pretty good fullback. Third, I don't bitch at them from the sidelines all game, and in fact I jumped on the assistant coach the one time he started to sound harsh and frustrated. Long on positive, short on negative. And like Stargirl, I clap for the other team. Does all that help, or would we be doing even better if I were a drill sergeant and a micromanager, giving no quarter to the enemy, that sort of thing? I don't know, but I like it my way, and it seems to be working out ok so far.

For the time being, in all aspects of life, my family and I are not just surviving, we're thriving. Stacey still tests off the charts at school, and is becoming a better athlete and dancer every year. Scout's love for Stacey and me has grown, as has her vocabulary and coordination. We're working on a bike with training wheels, "om my up" has been replaced with "could you pick me up?", and she now stays with us two thirds of the time while dad is off at college in another city. Liberty is happy with more time with her girl, and has enjoyed the freedom of having disposable income again, not being forced to pinch pennies as a single mom/college student. She's been redecorating the house, playing in the kitchen (homemade granola bars -- kick ass), and looking more and more like she's happy to stick around.

All thirteen of my girls are happy, and thus, I am happy. Life is good.