I’ll be leaving work for the day shortly. Before I leave, I always make a stop in the restroom so I’m ready for my grueling four mile (20 minute) commute home. I know. Feel sorry for me. There is no way for me to get to the restroom from my office without passing the elevators and as I did so I saw a woman waiting who has been a thorn in my side since the day I started this job. She’s evil and pushy and demanding and full of herself and I don’t like her one bit. And in a second I’ll tell you how I really feel.
As I passed her all those thoughts rushed through my mind. In an instant, I thought of how much I dislike this woman and all the reasons why. I also thought of her daughter, who is, by chance, a well-known Olympic swimmer and household name; a former contestant on Dancing with the Stars; has judged Iron Chef America; and has a number of product endorsement deals. Her daughter, who, from what you can tell by her public appearances, is a kind, sweet woman, liked by everyone.
I imagined this woman faced with the accusation of being all the things I said of her, feeling the need to defend herself and doing so by saying something along the lines of, “If me being evil and pushy and demanding and full of myself helped my daughter get where she is today then I’m glad to be all those things”, because this woman strikes me as being that kind of person; a stage mother, someone who might have pushed her daughter into being something she may or may not have wanted to be.
I couldn’t help but wonder about a childhood like that and then I thought about what it would be like to have those opportunities, whether they were desired or not. And I thought about the opportunities I didn’t have growing up.
I’m glad I didn’t have parents who pushed me to be something they wanted me to be, without concern about what I wanted. (OK, I just heard that in my head and I realize I very much had parents who pushed me to be things they wanted me to be, without concern for what I wanted, but in a very different context.) I’m glad I wasn’t the disgruntled child of a stage mother pushing me to be a professional when all I wanted was to go play and be like normal kids. I don’t think that would have been a great way for me to grow up, especially if I didn’t really know what I wanted to be or do.
On the other hand, I wish I had the opportunity to find out what I wanted to be or do. I wish I had the option to experiment and find out what I really liked and the opportunity to pursue it full force; to be the best I could be at something I wanted to do.
I wish I had learned to play the piano.
I wish I had swimming lessons.
I wish I had learned to ice skate and ski.
I wish I had tennis lessons.
I wish I had acting and singing lessons.
I wish I had taken dance classes.
I wish I had all those things and anything else I wanted to try.
All those things cost money my parents didn’t have and I get that.
I can’t hold it against my parents that they couldn’t afford to give me these things, but I can’t help wonder what I might be like if I had those opportunities, not just to learn skills or develop talents, but the opportunity to be involved with things, to be active and social.
I wish I’d been encouraged to get out and interact with people, to participate in activities and events. I wish I’d been encouraged to live life.
Instead I was encouraged, nay, I was ordered to sit back, stay out of the way, watch life pass me by and never be a part of it at all.
The woman in the elevator may be evil and pushy and demanding and full of herself, but she gave her daughter opportunities. She encouraged her daughter to play a part in the world around her. She created a world where her daughter could be somebody and live life. How wrong can that be.
Besides, thanks to her, I have personally held in my own two hands two gold, two silver and one bronze olympic medals. How many people can say that?