I started my morning the other day quite blissfully - which is honestly rarely how I would characterize the start of my days. This particular morning, I was taking my kids to camp and daycare, which my wife does most mornings (I do pickups), and so I had just a few extra minutes in my morning schedule to be with my girls - and they had both woken up a bit early.
If that weren’t enough, Wimbledon was on, and that’s what my girls actually wanted to watch! (parenting victory) So, there I was on a work morning, lying on my couch, my arm around one girl on my shoulder and rubbing the head of the other who was lying on my legs. Some mornings, I don’t even get to see them, so this was a pretty magical way to start the day.
And then, the questions:
Which player is that one?
Who’s the other one?
Which one lives closer to us?
Is Serbia in New York?
What is Belgium?
Who’s the guy in the chair? (umpire)
Why is he wearing that coat? (well, it’s just the custom, I guess.)
What’s a custom? (…something people just do because they do it…)
Who are those people against the wall? (line judges)
Why do they yell? (they say if the ball is outside of the lines)
What are they yelling? (out)
Why do they have blue shirts on? (…)
Who are those people with their hands behind their backs? (ball boys and girls)
Why do they have their hands behind their backs? (um…to keep them out of the way…)
Why do they hold their hand up in the air? (to offer the player the ball to serve)
What’s a serve? (how they start a point)
Why is that guy throwing the ball in the air? (that’s the serve)
Is it over? (no, that was just one point.)
Who is winning? (the guy closest to us)
Why is it 4 to 3?
Why does he have 30 points?
Why did he get 15 points?
Did he win? (no, it’s deuce)
What is deuce? (40-40)
Did he win? (no, it’s his advantage though)
How do you win?
Did he win? (he won the game, but it’s just 4-4 in the set)
What’s a set? (it’s made of of games and part of a match)
You probably get the idea - and probably did about 10 to 15 questions ago!
For the briefest moment, I wanted them to hush and watch the match - or I really didn’t care if they did, but I did, and I wanted them to let me do it in peace. But, the question barrage was so fierce and so valid that it became the sport itself. It added to the morning bliss.
I love tennis. But, it is very odd and chock full of quirky rules and customs that I simply can’t explain. I can only offer them as fact - that’s how they do it in tennis. This just happens to be a very unsatisfying answer to both me and my girls.
And, I started to think about all of the new things that they experience almost every day that are just like tennis to them. New. Quirky. Arbitrary. Full of weird adult rules. And, yet sometimes entertaining. In some ways at their age, it’s all tennis to them.
Thus, my paternal wish from this little blissful morning scene: may my girls always find themselves in weird, arbitrary, and entertaining places, having new experiences, and with quirky people where they are flush with questions and are empowered to ask and learn - or at least to ask.
Photo: A Brief History of Wimbledon