One of the uniquely pleasant surprises of being a parent is the opportunity to truly relive some of the wonder of childhood. I call it a surprise because it has to be so. I am not condoning the type of parenting which attempts to plan and push the child into a reenactment (or even a reversal) of everything the parent did or experienced growing up. You have to let it happen. But that doesn't mean it can't be a great joy and privilege when it does.
For the first few years of his life it looked like our oldest would not be too into sports. That was fine with me. In fact, he was so into music that I was discovering something through him that I actually never had as a child. I was dancing with him to music. Something I don't remember getting into until late in my own life.
But this past year he (and his younger brother following suit) has not been able to get enough of hockey, soccer, football, and now even baseball and basketball. And here's the thing: I had forgotten how much fun these things were for me at his age.
I remember the anticipation and baited breath I would have as I waited for my Dad to be able to play floor hockey in the basement, or take us outside to play soccer, or suit us up in snowgear to play football in waist deep white stuff. These were quite literally the thrills of my young life and, due to the pressures of life and "wearing off" of some of that original wonder over time, they have been tough to match.
So a week or two ago I watched the delight in my son's soul written all over his young face as he scored his first real goal in a soccer game. He was beside himself and frankly so was I. Then there are those times where I am shooting little plastic pucks at him and he's diving to make saves (and even doing replays and commentary like I did as a boy) and I know exactly what he's feeling inside. I can hear it in his voice. I remember it well. Its the wonder of play. And I'm feeling it again.
Then there was last night. Game five of the Stanley Cup goes into OT. We were in Saskatoon all day and had to listen to half the game on the radio coming home. Thought my boy was going to miss watching the Stanley Cup paraded around the rink. Then five minutes from home Pittsburgh scores in the dying seconds to tie. I'm thinking: "Its time for my boys to stay up late for their first overtime". Sure enough, it takes until the third OT for the Pens to win it and, though my youngest had opted for bed, I could feel in my oldest's heart the very things I remember feeling past my bedtime in the early 80s when the Canucks met the Isles or that amazing night when Pat Lafontaine ousted the Capitals in 4 OTs. Wonder. Excitement. Nerves. It's awesome. It is still the thrill of sport for me, at 32, to be honest, but it is all new and fresh again through a 5 year old's eyes.
And it is not just sports either. My youngest has recently realized he is funny. You can tell he knows it and that he genuinely enjoys being able to make people laugh. And while it reminds me of my brother's childhood more than my own, it is a joy to see it light up this young life and be so contagious to those around.
Of course, you also have to put up with jokes told 38 times straight, or the next morning "grumpies" from the boy who stayed up late, so don't get me wrong. But for all the trials and sacrifices of parenting (and there are many), there is also this great surprise: to get to relive that wonder and have so many simple parts of life made totally new and fresh and thrilling again.