Living Vicariously


This is not a word I use often. When I hear this word I think of one thing: parents living vicariously through their children. Most of us would agree this is not a great idea, but we do it anyway.

As a big tennis fan, I couldn’t wait for Jessie to pick up a tennis racquet. At two weeks old – yes, two weeks – Jessie was holding a miniature tennis racquet, with a little assistance from Dad.

At six weeks, I converted a beach play set into a tennis practice facility by replacing a stuffed, dangling sea horse with a tennis-ball lamp pull. A little creativity and Velcro and it worked like a charm. I can still remember my exuberance as I watched Jessie hit the tiny tennis ball with her miniature tennis racquet. It’s never too early to practice eye-hand coordination.

Even though I knew Jessie was going to be a tennis player, dominating the mixed-doubles daddy-daughter circuit, my wife and I introduced Jessie to all kinds of activities: basketball, soccer, archery, swimming, volleyball, softball, and my wife’s favorite – the beach. But deep down, I was confident Jessie would come back to Dad’s, err, I mean Jessie’s, first passion – tennis. Our future would be filled with quality time together on the courts and we’d win numerous tennis trophies, of course.

Then Jessie asked to take dance lessons. I was fine with this, as all sports require good balance, something ballet would provide. It’s time to get Jessie’s perspective.

Jessie, Age 12

Pointe Shoes: Years of training, practicing technique, and gaining strength lead up to this. Nope, these were definitely not the thoughts that were going through Dad’s mind as he told the shop owner helping me with my first pair of pointe shoes that I would have been better off playing tennis. Dad winced as the man fitting my pointe shoes told my dad the consequences of taking pointe.

“We’re looking for the pair that is the least uncomfortable. Feet weren’t meant to do this. We’re smashing her toes into a box. We’re looking for the shoes that will damage her feet the least.”

I have danced for five years. (This year is my sixth.) I have pushed myself to be a better dancer. I was excited to learn at the end of last dance year that I made it on pointe. I eventually did find a pair of pointe shoes I can wear, and Mom sewed the ribbons on them.

Pointe classes started a few weeks ago and they are going well. I can’t say it’s the most comfortable thing I’ve ever tried, but it’s ok, and I think it is making me a better dancer. I am glad that I have the opportunity to take these classes and think I will become more used to my feet being stuffed into a box. Now, let’s hear what Dad has to say.

What can dad say? I pictured myself taking Jessie shopping for high-performance tennis shoes. An hour-and-a-half pointe-shoe fitting isn’t my idea of a great time.

Hours of playing basketball, one-on-one, in the driveway. Games of PIG and Around the World.

Tossing softballs back and forth in the yard, chasing after the hundreds that missed their target. Tossing thousands of rubber balls on the roof of the house so Jessie could catch them in her ball glove when they bounced off. Batting practice in the front yard.

Tapping volleyballs back and forth, counting consecutive hits before the ball hit the ground.

Soccer and archery camps.

Swimming lessons.

Did I mention tennis lessons?

Out of all the activities Jessie could have pursued long-term, she chose to stick her pretty feet into a box that smashes her toes as she awkwardly tries to stand on the tips. Dad and daughter won’t be posing with tennis trophies any time soon.

The other night, though, as I stared through the window of Jessie’s dance class and watched her move across the floor with grace and beauty and a beaming smile on her face, it hit me. I’m living vicariously through Jessie – on the dance floor in pointe shoes!

Jessie is following her heart and enjoying life with zest and passion. She doesn’t need to have sneakers on her feet and a racquet in her hand. She’s loving life, which is exactly what we all should do with each day we’re granted.

But whether Jessie is spinning gracefully in her pointe shoes or hitting a tennis ball back to Dad (still hoping), one thing is certain ’tween daughter and dad, I love my girl and my girl loves me.

Until next month, remember to cherish the moments. To all the hard-working moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day!

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