I was recently sitting in my car outside a large sporting goods store waiting on our 15-year-old to emerge with bait so he could go bake in the sun while fishing.
As usual, I took the opportunity to people watch, one of my favorite sports.
First to walk out was a tennis mom. Attractive, tan and clad in an outfit that easily cost $300, her appearance made me think back to my own tennis attempts.
I played for fun as a child, running around missing more balls than I could whack. Most of my friends played, but it never really felt like “play,” since even back then tennis was a serious business.
My friends had coaches, took lessons daily and had to endure endless commentary from what seemed like everybody. Matches often ended with tears. It never seemed like anybody was having much fun.
When we had a few babies, one of my grown-up tennis friends invited me to play with her. I told her I wasn’t any good, but she insisted. I relented.
It didn’t take half of a match for her to realize I wasn’t kidding. She never asked me to play again, and I don’t blame her.
After that, I signed up for lessons at the rec department. I decided even though I would surely never be one of the Williams sisters, or whoever was popular back then, I could at least learn enough to not be a complete embarrassment.
Well, I made a few friends during those lessons, and the instructor could not have been more patient with me. But it was clear to all of us I would never move up past the beginner stage.
I went back to just whacking balls around for fun with my kids and pretending we were playing tennis.
Sometimes I thought about wearing my one tennis outfit, which cost nowhere near $100, to the grocery store just to look the part. But I was always afraid I would run into one of my real tennis friends.
Oh well, back to parking lot people watching.
Next to come out was a working dad, carrying an armful of baseball items. He had a determined look on his face, as if he was strategizing how Tommy would hold this bat differently and would surely knock a homer.
While on that topic, let me just say that sports are great for kids and can be a memorable and rewarding experience. Sadly, however, parents seem too often to push their children so hard that they take all of the joy right out of the experience.
I know I may be shattering some dreams here, but you parents with 4-year-olds playing soccer, baseball and the like need to know it’s quite unlikely your child will ever play professionally. In fact, there’s a high probability their playing careers won’t make it to middle school.
Instead, just enjoy the games and try to let the kids have fun. Whatever you do, don’t scream at your child during games from the stands or sidelines.
This is so awful for the child, coaches and other parents who just want to cheer the kids on and then go get ice cream.
The next to walk across the parking lot and head into the store was a mom and her four young children.
Of course, that took me right back to the early weeks of summer when ours were young. This mom even reminded me a little bit of the former me.
She was holding one on her hip, the hand of another and instructing the older two to stay close. She looked happy, as if she was relieved to be out with the kids in the morning, on their way for an adventure at the sporting goods store.
I remembered how the beginning of summer vacation, for moms and kids alike, was so exciting. Almost like everybody was going on a treasure hunt.
Every day there would be new adventures and clues as to where the next surprise awaited. We all imagined swimming in the pool, opening lemonade stands and living harmoniously during the lazy days of summer.
I also remember how those feelings of elations didn’t last. The first “I’m bored” and “we can’t go to bed yet because it is still light outside” always came way too soon in the season.
In any event, my mom always said most of the memories you have are good ones. She said you block out the bad ones or they become funny tales. I smiled thinking how that’s true.
I only remember the fun parts of the picnics and not the ants or the time our youngest got stung by a yellow jacket — oops, I guess I do remember some of the calamities.
But still, I remember that day thinking of what a cute baby he was and how red his little face was as he screamed for an hour in the car.
And I’m smiling and my blood pressure isn’t elevated.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.