Supporting a child’s dreams?

I’m chilled. The rink is never warm. Even though I bundle up with thermals and fleece and down jackets, I’m always cold just sitting here in the penetrating cold. But Carly in her tights and workout dress looks perfectly comfortable. Why shouldn’t she? She’s been doing warm ups for twenty minutes circling the arena, short jumps, skating backwards, spins. And now her coach comes to the boards, talks to her.

She’s the reason we’re here. ’World famous’ skating coach finally makes it over, a cup of steaming coffee in her hands, paid-for by me and several other parents eager to give their darlings a shot at Olympic gold. It’s not just the coach’s contract. It’s the ice time, the skates, the clothes, the travel, the apartment, the tutor. And my job. God, I was an internist with a full time practice on the other side of the state. But the coach was here. The skating groupies hung around here. If Carly was going to progress, she had to be here. We, I, had to be here too.

At first, I was all for it. My child had a talent demanding support and development. Of course we would spend money to get her started. And then she showed real talent. Now what? All the predictable questions—does she want to totally dedicate herself to this sport? Does she have the talent? The drive? The competitive push? Even if she does, how much do we owe her as parents?

She works on her triple toe loop. Succeeds once. Fails twice thumping on her butt. She gets up quickly. God, she’s got grit. Never was one to cry if she could help it. I can’t fault her determination. But that’s not all it takes. She’s got to be world class. And if she isn’t? She could have her moment at the Nationals or 6th place in the Olympics, then what? Will she come home to skate with Stars on Ice? Call it a job. Show biz basically. And I have given up my hard earned career so she can be a traveling performer. Ta da!

Or maybe, after the Olympics, she’ll just say, ‘Oh well, that was nice. Time to try something else.’ And I’m left standing there with no job, lost income and a kid no different from any other parent wondering what my kids going to do with her life.

Or, okay, say she really is good and earns a gold and gets her picture on a Wheaties box and has talk show appearances and endorsements and gets to compete on Dancing With the Stars. Why do I have to be involved? Why can’t she just go to college like I did and simply need money from us?

If I suggest she quit the program, would she feel like she ‘coulda been a contender’ the rest of her life and blame me? If she decides on her own, will she think of herself as a loser? Why couldn’t she just be happy to enjoy skating, get decent at it and have a normal adolescence. Instead she’s torqued our whole family around. I wonder if she feels the burden of that? Wonders if we put pressure on her to succeed? Or if she even cares, teenager that she is?

It’s a good thing I’m not invested in all this. Well, I am. But I mean, emotionally. Like a stage mom, living my life through my child.  I could care less what she does—veterinarian, speech pathologist, athletic trainer. I don’t care. It’s her life. I’ll give her tuition and attend graduation but why do I have to sit here every morning shivering my butt off? Well, at least it’s ice skating and not luge. There is that.

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