When you enter the gym, you'll recognize
a lot -- the shine of the floor, the height
of the rim, the high squeaks of feet
picking & rolling. A whistle will pierce
the air, and you'll gather, a rough
semicircle, hands on hips, game faces.
A face not unkind, a voice slightly
too loud, dressed in colors you hope
to wear. He'll tell you (probably a he)
that some of you won't make it.
And maybe for you, it's as if he's
teasing, mocking, as if he's certain that
you won't make it. So you
run and you throw
your whole body in.
What you fear will not go away. Let
me take it on for you. Let me worry
and sweat, all nerves & hope seated
among the other dads, watching the next
This is more a mantra to future-me than a message to my unafraid athlete son. Shamelessly modeled after William Stafford's "For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid".
9 responses to “for the child who is afraid.”
What a beautifully written slice! You’ve captured and transcended the moment and written a post that any parent can relate to. Well done! (Also, welcome to the challenge this year!)
thanks for the kind words & the welcome : )
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What a great piece to share with your child. I like how you describe the expectations, giving a head’s-up on what’s to come. “…Let me worry/ and sweat, all nerves & hope seated/ among the other dads…” captures those moments any parent is watching a child compete or perform. Great post.
aw thank you! Like I said, I’m not cut out for his world … and barely cut out for the stands : )
Being a parent is a challenge; being an athlete’s parent turns out to be a whole other bag. The sensory cues in the first stanza really set the scene expertly: the shine, the squeaks, the whistle. Then I’m fully ready for the cast of characters: coach and tryout hopefuls. Since I spend most of my days in gyms, this post found its way straight to my heart.
Oh, I’m so happy it landed well for you! Maybe you’ll also like this poem by Mark Doty : ) https://poets.org/poem/gym
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Poignant! The details are spot on and take us with you. Thanks for sharing!
Ah, a small moment but speaking to such a big theme- we can’t take on the hard parts of living for our children as much as we might want to. Universal truths faced on the court.
In this case, I’m happy to report that the son takes after his mama — he thrives on teams & in sports : )