Waiting for the stumble
Character-building moments have been few for my daughter – that’s good, I guess
Growing up, there were three things I loved: reading Robert E. Howard’s ‘Conan’ novels in English class, listening to Iron Maiden, and playing hockey.
I loved everything about hockey — the camaraderie, the 5 a.m. practices and even that instantly recognizable locker room stink that brings me right back to the Graf Rink in Newburyport where there’s still probably a ninja throwing star stuck in the ceiling of locker room 4 that I had nothing to do with whatsoever.
There was just one small problem about my hockey career — I wasn’t good. I was the guy that was on the first line of the junior varsity team, but never got to skate alongside the varsity players from my school who went on to Hockey East, Europe, and even the NHL.
However, there was an upside to my complete lack of hockey IQ. Rejection and disappointment, I was taught, builds character. At the end of a hockey career unencumbered by items such as trophies, championships or scoring titles, I emerged with enough character to win the gold medal at the character Olympics. So while I want my 16-year-old daughter to have strong character, I just can’t find it in myself to root against her.
She’s having a year. Let’s just say there were a number of victories during her junior year in high school and things went fairly well, and that’s great. I want my child to have the perfect life with no obstacles or difficulties. But we know that’s not how life works.
Someday, unfortunately, disappointment will rear its stupid head. Whether it’ll be stumbling during an audition or fumbling a college interview, it’s bound to happen. That’s when she’ll learn what was ingrained into me about disappointment and character — because I think there’s some validity to it.
We recently had a chance for her to experience a defeat/character-building moment. She auditioned for an improv troupe at her school. It’s a tough tryout, and there was a real chance she’d get passed over. Sadly, she succeeded.
While we wait, the best her mom and I can do is parent our butts off, and point to the assemblage of excellent role models in our family for her to emulate. We have a police officer, a minister, several veterans, and hardworking white- and blue-collar workers aplenty. While she’s an only child, there are many surrogate siblings for her to learn from.
In the meantime, we’ll have to wait for setbacks to occur organically as they do in nature or in Toronto during the NHL playoffs. That’s when she’ll blossom.
When she was little, I’d swing through Friendly’s and anything that was irking her was quickly forgotten. Until science proves that Fribbles build character, I’ll have to help her learn from whatever obstacles may pop up.
I’m ready, disappointment. Let’s do this.
Bill Burke is the all-time world champion of character and a writer who lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife and daughter. He is also the managing editor of custom publications for McLean Communications.