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Will My Child Be Affected By My Personal Disinterests?

Neither my husband nor I are huge sports people. We both had short-lived athletic careers in school that mostly served to direct us to what we really want to do in life. Between the two of us, I'm a more involved spectator—I enjoy listening to a Bears, White Sox or Blackhawks game in the car or the kitchen while I'm cooking dinner, but between sports scandals and a general lack of time, my enthusiasm has waned somewhat. If you called me a fair-weather fan, it would hurt, but it wouldn't be inaccurate. Meanwhile, Steve grew up in Phoenix, which wasn't much of a sports bastion during his time, the child of parents who didn't care much about sports. I can promise you the only time he listens or watches a sports game at home is when his wife puts one on.

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So, we wonder, who will be in charge of teaching our boys about sports? Who will fill the role my dad did for me, teaching me to throw a baseball over and over again until I wasn't "throwing like a girl"? I certainly don't want to do that (I don't feel authoritative enough, nor know how to do this in a positive, non-damaging way) and I know Steve feels even less inclined to do so himself. And who's going to teach our boys how sports work? I can tell Paul how many strikes you get before you're out or how many balls you get before a walk, and Steve can fill in some of the gaps on hockey, but what about the rest? What if Paul wants to know when it's time for the slider vs. the curveball or which plays makes sense in football?

Truth be told, I don't really care that much if Paul or his brother are super-involved in sports. I've never looked at the parents huddled by the sidelines on a weekend soccer game and thought "I want to do that!" I think there is a high probability I'd get easily annoyed by too involved hypercompetitive parents or the too sensitive "everyone gets a medal for showing up!" types.

I'm clearly not the only parent who has worried about whether her child will be affected by her particular deficits.

The main reasons I do hope our boys get into sports is for exercise and for the social aspect of it. While my husband, for instance, has fashioned a very full and happy life without being a sports nut, he's frequently expressed regret that he lacks that social shorthand that comes with being being raised with a stronger emphasis on athletics. I'd, of course, be perfectly happy if we lived in a society where two stranger-men could figure out what to talk about beyond "What's the score?" or "How are you doing in your pool?" but until then, it does have its social advantages.

I'm clearly not the only parent who has worried about whether her child will be affected by her particular deficits. I asked some friends on Facebook and the following are things that they lacked interest or skill in that they were worried would would negatively affect their children: religion, patience, household handiness, healthful eating habits, math, and "not being a dick." But it's clear that children are not carbon copies of their parents.

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Caroline, a friend from college, fretted that her lack of artistic skills would manifest itself in her sons, but "he's four now and OBSESSED with Legos and comes up with the coolest, most creative ideas. It's awesome to see how creative he really is." My friend Bob, whose children are a bit older, had some advice for the long term: "I've learned that by age 13, your child will develop an interest in something you never saw coming, something probably you nor your spouse had ever tried to develop. What that is, and how you react to it, goes a long way toward determining the relationship between you and your child."

So, who knows. I secretly know our kids will be fine: they'll be great at few things, good at some other things, middling at most things and bad at several other things, but overall likely to be pretty good at life. We'll try to relax. My husband's and my main job, in the meantime, is to figure out which between the two of us will take our kids on roller coasters—God forbid they get into those.

Image via Claire Zulkey

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