I am profoundly grateful and thankful that my parents did not make me play sports as a kid.
Growing up in Portage, MI, a town of about 50,000 people in Southwest Michigan, boys played sports. You went to the AYSO or South Portage Little League sign up on Saturday morning, picked up your box of World’s Finest Chocolate bars to sell, and you were a “member” of the stereotypical boy club. I guess the next step of membership was getting your uniform. To me that was the best part! I fondly remember my AYSO soccer uniform, white on one side and navy on the other. Reversible! Fancy! Though my storied sports career only spanned two seasons, fall for soccer and spring for t-ball, when I was 7 or 8 years old, I’m glad my parents had me try it out and I’m thankful beyond measure that they didn’t make me continue.
I was recently at a training workshop and the ice breaker the first morning was a name game. It was that morning that I actually got the idea for this post. We were to tell the story behind our name. The name game that day was very different from the name game the first day of acting class when I was 8 or 9 years old, but it took me right back to that place. It was a very excited and grateful place because my parents found something else for me to try, acting!! Let’s be real, I’m not sure why that wasn’t the first thing they suggested I do. Look how natural the microphone(or a wooden spoon as a mic) are in my hand as a child. Please also note the fashionista in training with suspenders and then THOSE shorts coupled with cowboy boots! I know for sure that I got that microphone and the boots for my 5th birthday! It was my GOLDEN Birthday!
But I remember that acting class fondly. I remember that I chose the monkey to represent me. We had to choose an animal that started with the first letter of our name. I remember doing face painting and improvisation and all sorts of other fun acting things. Man, I was far more suited for that type of thing than sports. Organizing oranges for halftime at soccer and picking grass were my favorite things to do. I can remember begging my soccer coach not to put me in. I hated it. And for baseball my mom and dad tell stories of being afraid I’d get hit in the head with a fly ball because I was out in the outfield, sitting down, playing with the grass. Was it my ADD or my hatred of sports? Either way, I had better things to do.
XOXO to my Mom and Dad for their love and support. You are the best!
What I know for sure is that in high school I was able to find my “club” in marching band. I loved those days. I loved band camp and Wednesday night rehearsals. Arriving early on Wednesday nights was common just so I could socialize with others. Looking back, finding a place, a group I fit in with was huge in my development. So was playing soccer and baseball and going to acting class. Every experience we have in life points us in the direction of where we need to go. We definitely do not see it at the time, but take a moment to look back on the fun times, the hard times, the crazy times, the dark times and think about it. Are you where you are now because of something that came out of those times? I bet the answer is yes. Although it wasn’t the social norm, I am where I am today because I chose not to play football after school, rather I went to a neighbor girls house and put roller skating and flag shows together to be performed in her garage. I remember riding my bike so fast past my childhood best friend’s house where the football game was going on, hoping no one would see me. The boys in my neighborhood could probably have cared less, they were great guys who always treated me well, but they knew I had different interest. And that is what I’m talking about here. Had my mom and dad not picked up on my varied interests and put me in an acting class at age 9, would I have had the confidence at age 13 to say, “no, I’m not playing football with you guys, I’m going to go put a show together”? The answer is probably no.
My parents never told me I couldn’t play dress up, although my mom’s old majorette skirt disappeared at age 4 and I’m still sad about that! One of my first memories was scouring, SCOURING the house in search of that skirt. I used to love dancing around to Barbara Mandrell.
The infamous skirt and I’m pretty sure that is a microphone in my hand and oh yes, gym socks!!
But isn’t it crazy that even at age 4 I knew I wasn’t supposed to do that and I never asked where the skirt disappeared to. My parents never stopped me from laying in front of the stereo on Sunday mornings listening to four hours of American Top 40 or watching Star Search on Saturday AND Sunday(the same episode twice). We got a family VCR for Christmas in 1986. My dad actually suggested that, “you might like to tape this show, Miss USA, tonight.” See Dad, you knew something even back when I was 10. He’s to credit for my vast pageant knowledge from 1987-1997. I can’t tell you how many people I scare with that knowledge, or connect with actually. Who knows what all the little things we pick up on along the way do for our development, but I’m certain that although I felt like I had to hide a lot of my interests growing up, my house was always a safe space to express myself. I so deeply believe that parents are just trying their best to raise decent human beings who can flourish in this world. Thank you Mom and Dad for allowing me to take my own path. At 38, I think I’m flourishing!
One thought on “Profoundly Grateful”
Matthew – I remember watching many of your performances throughout the years, some involved wigs and heels and all had a microphone. Because we had such a small family, we spent most of our holiday’s together and many at your Portage home. I too always felt safe there and like I was just another member of your family. It was always a welcoming place to visit. Your mom and dad did the best job they could raising you and Ryan and although you two took very different paths, one very common fact is that you are both great human beings. I am so proud of the person you have become. I look forward to more family time together and your future performances.