Teaching the Basics


“Mom, you can teach Catherine the basics while I go play on the playground. OK? I’ll be on the playground. Have fun Catherine!” Sarah’s voice trailed off as she ran across the tennis court to the gate leading to the playground. We had just finished playing some tennis together while Catherine sat under an umbrella shielded from the sun.  For about 5 minutes, we got Catherine on the court also and Sarah tried to hit balls with her. You can probably imagine how that went. 

In Sarah’s mind her sister just needed some more basic info and then they could play together. My mom brain thought it was cute. My mom brain also thought it absurd.

Or was it?

Left alone on the court with Catherine in the hot sun while Sarah bursts off to the playground, I had a few choices. I could pack her up and take her inside for Sarah to come home a little later. I could set the tennis gear aside and go for a quick walk. I could just stand there and wait. Or – like my brilliant daughter suggested – I could teach Catherine the basics. 

I realized how strange it must look when someone walked by and looked at us on the court. I had Catherine’s hands on the racket showing her the shape and size. I dragged her fingertips across the strings explaining that was the part that hit the ball. And then I let her feel the fuzzy ball. She really liked that and kept her normally curled fingers open wide to feel the rough texture of the ball. I even saw her smile. Then I put her hand on the grip and explained the need to shake hands with the racket, just like my mom had when she declared I needed to learn a lifetime sport – either tennis or golf. 

I thought we were done. And then an image flashed before my eyes – hit the ball and let her feel that. I popped a ball into the air and gently tapped it against the strings toward the fence. Catherine smiled again. 

I kind of beat myself up for not being willing to teach Catherine tennis when Sarah suggested it. I have to confess it seemed rather silly and a waste of time. Contrary to many people’s opinion, I do go through times thinking a lot of what we do with Catherine is wasted energy. I get really down on myself for thinking that way. It’s important to be real about it though. It happens. I’m not always the mom so many people think I am. 

So we hit the ball a whole bunch more times as I realized three profound truths – 1. Always start with the basics, 2. A little child would lead me, and 3. Sometimes you just gotta fake it til it’s fun. Who knows where any of these might lead us.  

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