A couple of weeks ago, I walked from the Upper School campus to my office. It was one of those stunningly beautiful Pasadena days when the mountains felt close enough to touch. Crossing Cornell, I could hear the baseball team practicing—the crack of the bat always brings a flood of poignant childhood and parenting memories back to me. At the top of the ramp, I noticed one of our parents tucked in behind the right-field stanchions watching practice. We chatted for a bit, and I was reminded of all of those times that just seeing my kids doing something they loved was enough—it didn’t matter whether they were practicing or playing, and the score didn’t count.
One of my biggest parenting challenges was resisting the temptation to keep score all of the time. Don’t get me wrong; I see the wisdom in the words of one of my high school coaches who would argue to us before a match that, “winning isn’t everything, but it is a hell of a lot better than losing.” Furthermore, keeping tally as my kids navigated school was more about my need to be seen as a good parent and less about what my son or daughter needed to thrive. When too much of my ego was involved in any outcome, you could see the joy quickly slip away from any endeavor. I learned, at times begrudgingly, that I needed to “cheer, not coach” and to get out of the way.
As time unfolded more rapidly than I wanted, those unscripted moments watching my kids grow up proved reassuring and bittersweet. Seeing them curled up with their new favorite book, cooking dinner for their grandparents, or laughing with their friends, I knew that my role was shifting, and I would learn to find comfort in their independence from me. What I understood intellectually turns out to be true emotionally too: you never stop wanting to watch them as they grow up. Of course, they’ve now started to watch me grow old, but that’s a story for another time.