Part of parenting means fostering my son's dreams, even if they're gigantic.
Coop is going to play in the NBA.
You'll be happy to know, however, that it's not the only plan. His fallback? Major League Baseball.
I knew about the basketball plan. It's the only answer he'll give when asked what he wants to be. I just didn't know professional baseball was Plan B until he walked in the other day holding his daddy's old, wooden bat. “Momma, if I'm not good enough for the NBA someday, I'll play in the MLB,” he said. “And I'll use this bat.”
That was it: Just him sharing a thought and then moving on. It simultaneously made me smile and broke my heart.
At 8, he's getting old enough to understand that only a special few achieve that kind of dream—smile.
At 8, he's getting old enough to understand that only a special few achieve that kind of dream—heart crushed.
Of course, the fact that his secondary plan is another professional sport gives me hope that all innocence is not yet lost. (He's also casually mentioned his desire to participate in the Olympics and the World Cup, too.)
I can remember when his older sister—my stepdaughter, Izzy—was 6. Specifically, 6 3/4. (She was never just 6. She was always a very specific segment of 6, which is part of what makes 6 amazing.) We were driving. She was finding shapes in the clouds. And all I could think was, “When will she stop seeing bunnies in the clouds? When does the world steal our desire, or even our ability, to see with those eyes?”
A dozen years later, the NBA is Coop's bunny in a cloud.
He plays everything: baseball, soccer, flag football. His highlight of every school day is usually kickball or gaga ball. But basketball is his No. 1. He went to his first game at 10 days old and hasn't stopped. Between his siblings playing and his Papaw coaching a high school team, it's a regularly scheduled thing. Plus, my husband and I played our whole lives.
Coop got a Little Tikes hoop for his first birthday, and it lived in our family room—the hub of the house—for a solid five years. By then, he was big enough to shoot on the real hoop outside. And so he does. Almost every day. In the blazing heat, in the pouring rain. Even on the heels of another sporting event, or when we suggest a break. (I live in fear that our neighbors think we think we're molding the next LeBron when, actually, we're forcing him to play on his iPad because 7:32 a.m. is not an appropriate time to be dribbling a ball.) There are often solo drills in the morning and family games in the evening. We recently made a friendly bet, and when everyone chose their prize, Coop skipped a favorite-restaurant option for a driveway game to 60 points.
I admittedly love it. Basketball taught me a lot about life. About hard work. About communication. About leadership. About humility. About emotional strength. About teams. About people. About myself. I want the sport that helped shape me to help shape my little guy, too.
Before I had children, I thought it was ridiculous when people allowed their kids to say they wanted to be professional athletes. “People who let their kids believe that don't know sports,” I thought. “Just keep it real.”
Here's the thing: We live in a world that can be brutal—even for kiddos this young. My mission as a momma is not just to love my kid with the whole of my being and to help build his wings. It's also to be the light for him. And part of that means fostering his dreams, even if they're gigantic.
And so I slip on my T-shirt and sneakers and shoot hoops alongside Coop and my husband early in the morning and after dinner, even when I'm exhausted. Not because I'm banking on him playing in the NBA. But because I'll be darned if I am the reason he stops seeing shapes in the clouds.
Dream on, kid. I'll be right beside you. Probably stealing the ball. Because if you want it, you've got to work for it.
But I'm all in.
Kristy Eckert is a Powell mom and founder of Kristy Eckert Communications. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.