We’re half way to basketball practice when Jayden announces, “Oops. I left my basketball at home.”
“What?!” I say. “I told you three times not to forget it!’”
“Yeah,” he says softly. “Sorry about that.”
I ignore his apology. “Bubs! How did you forget the single most important thing?”
“I don’t know.” His voice keeps getting lower.
“This is not good, Bubs. You’ll be the one kid at practice without a ball.” I glance back at him playing on his tablet. “Oh! But I see you remembered your games.”
He says nothing, probably because he knows from experience there is no correct response. A few moments pass. I can tell from the awkward silence he’s paused his game. He’s waiting to see if the admonishment is going to continue. After another minute of awkward silence, he resumes his game. And I decide I’m done, at least for now.
At practice, he runs around with his teammates, high-fiving and air-jumping over every positive thing they do. I don’t why this ticks me off. What did I expect? Did I think that his body language on the court would communicate to me, “Sorry, Dad?”
Maybe I’m just upset because he’s having fun while I’m kicking myself that I didn’t remind him a fourth time to grab his ball, or that I didn’t just get the ball myself. Which is what I do most of the time. I tell him, “Put your dishes from dinner in the dishwasher.” He says, “Yes, Dad.” Then 30 minutes later, we repeat the exact same dialogue. Then an hour later, we repeat it again. Finally, after he’s gone to bed, I see his dishes still sitting at the kitchen table. He’s only 10, I tell myself.
As I watch practice, I observe the other kids on his team. Each one has an untied shoe, a mismatched sock, or bed head. One kid is in shorts but is still wearing his parka. Another kid’s wearing two totally different sneakers. For a moment, I think, I’m glad I’m not that kid’s Dad. Then I remember that five seconds ago I was kicking myself for not catching my kid’s mistake in time for practice.
I struggle to know when to nag my kids, when to allow them to fail, when to bail them out, or when to just take a deep breath, and just ask him to do it in the morning, or load the dishwasher myself and move on. I try to remind myself that this is basketball practice. It’s not a big deal. We’re here to have fun. And if he’s having fun then I can, too. I remember that watching Jayden play basketball is incredibly fun. He plays with a ton of heart, and has pretty good instincts, too. Within a few minutes, he’s drenched in sweat.
I hear the coach tell the team to take a water break, and Jayden comes over to me. “Dad, you forgot my water.”
I look at the rest of his team drinking from their water bottles. “Son… do you want to rephrase that?”
He smiles at me. “Oh, sorry. I forgot my water.”
I take a deep breath. “There’s a water fountain outside.”
Then he runs off.
I forgot his water, I say to myself out loud. Then I remember he’s only 10. I guess he’s half right.