The Parent’s Perspective | Part 5 of 5
This last essay is a letter my father wrote to me, word for word, after hearing about my short fiction story “Seeds” and reading the Author’s Note for “Seeds.” In fact, it is a direct reply to the author’s note which you can find here. I added this to this series of essays because I wanted the parent’s voice to be heard too. I think if the parent-child relationship is to be a healthy one, everyone needs a voice and everyone needs to be heard. I could write a whole essay in response to his response, but I think in appreciation for letting me share this with you, I’ll let him have the last say… for now. And so, I’ll hand this one off to my father, a man who I have struggled to work with, struggled to understand, but still love and care for.
I read your article on being a tennis player and the struggles therein. I wanted you to hear a little bit of a parent’s perspective.
I think it is impossible to generalize if a parent is too hard on his child. There are so many factors involved. The one factor that you did not mention in your article and perhaps in your story is what effect a winning percentage has on a child.
Your brief period of stardom was when you were 11 and 12 years old. You were number 6 in the nation. You were taught by a coach who never taught patience during a point, and it was one thing you really never developed. — — was only a good coach for maybe 18 months. We stayed with him 18 months too long.
If we turned back the clock and you hit with Sly [*the best coach I ever worked with*] from the very beginning, do you think your current dislike for tennis and the strain which we had in our relationship would be different? Losing is hard on everyone. I think if your game had developed differently, your win/loss ration would have been drastically different. I did the best I could financially and from what I knew at the time. You did the best you could based on how you were taught tennis and your own abilities, but I definitely think your whole story would be different if you had been taught by a different coach from the beginning.
Think, if you were top 10 even in the 16’s and 18’s. Think if you were supported by the USTA and you were winning some professional matches. I think your whole attitude would be wildly different than it is now.
And what about your relationship with me? If you were winning and happy after so many matches, maybe you would be much more appreciative of a father who did his absolute best to give you the best tools he could, physically and mentally.
It’s always hard the first time around. I would be easier on a child should THEY want to pursue tennis, but I would also know where to go for coaching and great competition from the beginning. Going to national tournaments and watching you lose to players you used to beat was hard on me and hard on you. It wasn’t my fault nor yours. We did the best we knew how but I would say that losing takes its toll. It takes its toll on the player, the parent, and even the family.
Winning, on the other hand, is fun. It gives you more energy, more desire to improve one’s game and more love for the game itself. I would dare wager that if we had found Sly early in the game, your story would be about the love of the game and how a loving but stern father helped you become the player you wanted to be.
You can look at almost any great player’s parents and they are competitive and relentless. It does not mean they don’t love their child, in fact, they probably love their child more than most parents as they will sacrifice anything for the success of their child.
I did not do everything for you so you could get a college scholarship. It was the furthest thing from my mind. Yes, I thought you could go pro and I wanted you to have that chance. If you didn’t make it, I wanted to say to myself, “You gave it your best shot”.
I did many things wrong but I did the best I knew how at the time. That’s how we learn. Now, I know much more and yes, I would do things differently, but that’s hind-sight and everyone’s a genius looking back.
Love your papa.