If your family is anything like mine, then you have exactly zero spare time, between work, school, after-school activities and trying to keep the house clean. This is something my daughter is feeling pointedly as she has just entered the sixth grade, and has a much-increased workload. When the school had its annual open house, it had the parents go through a miniature version of a full school day, following their kids’ class schedule, hustling to each classroom for an eight-minute introduction by the teachers before the bell rang and it was off to another class. It was a brilliant way to get parents to understand that their kids really were being expected to do a lot more this year, a point understood by the many adults who had a heck of a time getting to their next class on time, and who took a “better them than us” approach when confronted with the homework levels.
As I’ve noted in previous columns, my entire family has been training in mixed martial arts for over a year and a half now, and it is something we have really committed to. Even though my wife and I train apart from our kids, and we have different belt progressions, last month we had the rare treat of all of us advancing to purple belt simultaneously, which in martial arts is a bit like the planets coming into alignment. It was a special moment for us all, and one to celebrate. But it also was the result of a lot of hard work and dedication, putting aside other things so we could focus on our training, which for us is not merely learning how to fight, but reaching peak fitness, developing fortitude of mind and spirit, and doing something in which we can all share. For my kids, this has gone one step further, as their dedication on the mat has earned them a spot on our school’s demonstration team, which is a bit like the equivalent of making varsity.
I bring this up because my daughter has, for the last few years, been on the township’s traveling basketball team, something which also requires no small amount of time. Tonight, she will go to tryouts to see if there is a place for her on this year’s team. Unfortunately for her, interest in the team is so low that there is a very good chance there will not be any team at all. But if there is, and if she is accepted, then she will have a hard choice to make. There is simply not enough time for her to do martial arts, basketball and keep on top of her school work. She knows it, too, and as I tucked her into bed last night, tears came to her eyes. “I’ve read about this in books, where somebody has a really hard decision to make,” she told me, referring to a common theme in young adult literature these days. “I just never thought I would have to make this kind of decision myself.”
Poor sweetpea. I gave her a hug and told her we’d figure something out, but I know that chances are, basketball is out this year. I feel for my daughter because she’s learning the hard way that life is a series of hard decisions. Some of them, we have the luxury of deciding on our own terms. Some of them, the terms are decided for us.