I am going to Hungary at the end of August.
It’s a trip I didn’t expect to make. Not because I didn’t think my son Sam would qualify for the Cadet World Championships. I naively think Sam will win every match he wrestles. But because that kind of trip is out of reach financially for me.
I was planning to stay home and watch on my computer (they stream everything now so why not this?) until my 77-year-old father called me and said, “I’d like to pay for your ticket.”
Needless to say I was stunned.
A roundtrip ticket to Hungary is more than $1,0000. Don’t get me wrong my father is a generous person who loves his children, but this was above and beyond for something that was not a necessity.
Then I asked him why he wanted to do this and the answer made me stop and think about the real role of wrestling moms and dads.
My dad said, “You have schlepped (a Yiddish word for dragged) that kid and sat in high school gyms all across the country and now he’s going to wrestle on the world stage. You have to be there, you deserve it.”
I have never thought of it that way. Yes, I have sat in gyms almost every weekend since Sam was 8 years old watching him wrestle. Yes, I have complained about the long drives, the long days and the uncomfortable wooden benches. But it was always fun to watch him and my other two sons do something they love. Their joy has brought me joy.
Of course losing hurts them so it hurt me. But as they learned important lessons in losing, I learned to help them lose gracefully. As they learned to win with humility, I learned to help them keep things in perspective. As they grew as wrestlers, I grew as a parent.
As wrestling parents we all make hard choices. My children, especially Sam, have been given amazing opportunities because of wrestling. I would like to be there as they take advantage of those things, but it’s not always possible.
Some people look forward to a trip to Florida in the winter, I look forward to the Holiday Tournament in Granite City, Illinois. Some people take a summer trip to the lake. My summer trips are either Oklahoma City (for the national duals) or Fargo (for the national individual tournament).
This year I didn’t go to Granite City or to Oklahoma City and I will not make it to Fargo. But I am going to take my father up on his offer and go to Hungary. And I will make more of an effort to get to Granite City, Oklahoma City, Fargo or wherever wrestling and life takes my boys. My dad’s right – I deserve to share in the joy of watching my children do their best and so do you.