Weekend Dad pt. 3: New Jersey Drive

I recently got an opportunity to see one of my twin daughters play basketball for her school team. Getting out to New Jersey on a Friday by 4pm is sometimes tough. The last time I didn’t time it correctly and I missed  entire game due to traffic. I left 3 hours before this time to make sure that didn’t happen again.

A small point guard drove the ball with feverish energy. Her midnight ponytail swinging back and forth wildly. She was determined and scrappy and a great site to watch, but I wasn’t there to see her. The slender sixth grader on the bench with her hair pulled back into s simple bun was the person I came to see shoot, pass and dribble. I sat in a corner and quietly waited for the moment she got up and walked on court. Half way through the second quarter I saw her go to the table to remind the 8th grader keeping score to make the notation of her number being substituted in.

They ran their offensive plays and tried to dribble, pass and shoot in unison and cohesion. I didn’t care about anything remotely related to how else the team was doing. I just needed to see my daughter grab the ball extend her arms and hear a familiar swoosh. That’s all I wanted. The other team was taller than my daughter’s team and played with more familiarity but that didn’t matter; I just needed my swoosh. They passed her the ball and she was immediately double teamed. She passed. Steal. Not the swoosh I wanted to hear. I could see my daughter’s frustration push out of her face and then…….she was on the bench. The other girls has to get their own playing times. I continued from my small seat retracting from concerned father back to spectator.

“Come on move the ball!”, came a shout from my left. “Come you guys don’t let her shoot.” The voice held a tone of familiarity; it was a regular.

“Come on slow it down, play smart!” The voice was from the other father looking forward to that same slender sixth grader to move off the bench and sink a basket; my daughter’s stepfather. Seeing him was always slightly awkward but he and I made the best of it as two men could; we made it brief. He respected me and I didn’t want to kill him, which in my opinion was a very even exchange. I am lying. I never wanted to kill him, just have him know that if he ever hurt my daughter he should fear for his life. I think most father’s would agree with my rationale of thinking. However like I said we kept things brief and it worked. In this moment we were rooting for the same little girl in a school gym in New Jersey and there are worse scenarios to be thrust into. Then it happened: my daughter was about to make her second debut. I was beyond excited but I glanced over to gauge my enthusiasm again my counterpart. I was failing. He knew the players names, recognized the offense and holes in the defense they were running things I had no reference to. As a father it felt bad not to know something about my daughter’s life but worse to think someone else held that information.

After the game I waited for my daughter to come out of the locker room, her stepfather stood there conversing with the coach. They spoke like this often it seemed like. I guess he could read my face feeling the bit of awkwardness that was hanging in the air and introduced me to my daughter’s coach (who was also the school science teacher). Coach didn’t miss a beat shaking my hand saying, “Oh great to meet you. She is a great little girl”.

I guess he had been in this situation before and realized I hadn’t. After the game I took my daughter and her twin sister to eat at the local mall. They got a kick out of telling me where to go and where to park; being my guides as we drove through New Jersey. I realized that this was part of their life I was alien to. As we walked and talked the fact gobbled up more of me. As a father I wanted to know everything about my daughters and their lives, but I didn’t. I advocate not comparing yourself to other people especially other parents because you diminish your own experience. I give that advice not to be virtuous but to be practical; it allows you to manage better. I promise.

-A Single Dad

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