Monday, June 10, 2019

I'm Not a "Dance Dad," But I am a "Dance Step-Dad!"

My four adult children, ages 19 to 26, haven't been on running tracks, baseball fields, soccer fields, basketball courts, volleyball courts, and gymnastics floors for many years, but last year I was blessed to remarry and become a step-dad to four amazing young people -- two of whom are adults and the two youngest are involved in weekly dance classes. Before becoming a step-dad, my experience with youth activities was primarily sports focused. My own children participated on teams that seemed to keep me on the move daily with transporting to practices, weekend games/meets, and some traveling. It was all worth it and I will always treasure the days of watching them participate and compete. Now, I am in the world of dance... a new arena for me as a step-dad.

I recently read an article by a writer and mom who was published at a website owned by the New York Times. In her article, she wrote: "My son plays travel baseball, and I’m glad he does. Competition nurtures resilience, and I love seeing him jump with sheer joy whenever a teammate crosses home plate. But here’s what I don’t love: the hours of my life lost each week taking him to practice and games (easily eight), and the guilt I (kind of) feel about making my husband go alone. When I do show up, I’m either too hot or too cold, and I feel silly shouting things like “Nice cut!”" 

Maybe she's a young Mom and new to the youth sports scene, but I can tell you that after being around youth sports (and even coaching kids) for the past 30 years, I don't believe that any parent should feel as though they are losing hours of their life each week, or feel "silly" shouting words of encouragement, when their child is participating in sports. Is that honestly how parents feel today when it comes to supporting and encouraging their kids in sports? Do a lot of parents feel that they are losing hours of their life and appearing silly in the stands?

Last week, my two youngest step-daughters (ages 11 and 14) participated in three evenings of dance recitals after working hard for 9 months on various dance routines. I, along with my wife and her eldest daughter, sat there with complete joy all three evenings as we witnessed the culmination of their efforts. I even had moments of tears in my eyes -- and not for the first time -- as I was overwhelmed with their heart for dance and how beautiful (and athletic!) they are. No, I didn't feel silly wiping tears away from my cheek. I had taken them to and from dance classes numerous times each week for nine months, watched them practice, and never once felt as though I was losing hours of my life.

Are today's young parents so self centered that they truly feel as though they are wasting time by taking their children to sports activities and cheering them on in their competitions? It's a sad commentary on this generation of parents, and on youth sports in general, if this woman's thoughts about losing time and feeling silly resonate with a lot of other parents.

I am now on a 3-month break from the dance world, and I'll tell you... I miss it. I'm already looking forward to September when I get to take my step-daughters back to the dance studio and be alongside other parents who -- hopefully -- are genuinely excited for their kids; are supportive of their pursuits; are considering the time at practice as a blessing; and, who don't feel silly... but proud. I love being a dance step-dad!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso