Typical Milestones


It was almost nine o’clock, the white circle of the sun just beginning to appear from beyond the white marine layer, two dozen volleyballs passing in arcs between partners in warm-ups along the beach between the tan facade of the boardwalk and the pylons of the wharf fading into the sea.

Two teams missing, leaving three-team pool problems in two of the tournament divisions. My sister was on a video call with my dad, who was on a rare vacation, two whole states to the north.

I don’t think he’d been absent from that morning registration in the sum total of thirty-plus years of running these tournaments. But my sister just handled it, asking for help and suggestions on who to switch in a way that would be fair. The games just beginning, though, there was a brief period of time after which it might be complicated (or at the very least, awkward) to re-arrange.

I had very little to contribute to the solution, so Bob and I carried the water containers up the hill to the secret water fountain. “For the kid tournaments,” Bob said, as I took one of the jugs from him, “we barely have to fill up one of these halfway.

Right. The parents bring all of the water and Gatorade they’ll need, I guessed correctly. He screwed the short black hose onto the water spigot, and I turned the knobless spigot with a pair of grip pliers.

“The adults expect it from us though, on a hot day we’ll go through six or seven.”

By the time we were carrying the first eighty pounds of water back down the hill, I could hear my sister on the microphone, describing what was fair in this situation. Calm, empathic, direct. In that imagined universe where somehow I’d been in charge, I could see all the way it would have stressed me out, even when the solution was pretty obvious. I was glad I wasn’t on the microphone, all those egos listening.

I imagined my dad and my mom having a conversation — or hoped that they would be — that while it had been stressful and this day of the trip had been giving him much anxiety, that this video chat and problem had been further evidence that his daughter was very capable of taking care of just about everything. I thought that it must be an unexpected moment as a parent, that to have been successful you eventually had to do nothing at all, not even be there, actually.

I don’t imagine that this is some unfamiliar emotional exercise in parenting — although it was odd to be experiencing the evidence first hand seemingly on his behalf.  I did wonder about the ways it differed from the early years of parenting. When children became adults, and they began to take over, was it more or less rewarding than the first signs of development and typical milestones? Did it feel similar?

Or was it just different, and there was nothing really to compare.


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