Each time I watch my children compete or perform in their respective athletic events, I am doing much more than watching.
When they do flips in the air during tumbling practice, I feel the power of liftoff and of throwing your body frontward and backward. I then feel the weightlessness that comes from spinning and flipping in the air before landing and gripping the ground tightly with your feet under slightly bent knees.
When my 11-year-old is racing those last 200 meters of the mile, I am feeling the heat of the track on the balls of my feet, the burn in my chest, heaviness in my head and weakness in my arms while giving it all to the finish. Or, when he stands on the basketball court in defensive stance, my mind anticipates the next move of the player with the ball before swiping it away for a breakaway layup that warrants cheers from the sidelines and high-fives from teammates.
Then, when I see my boys play soccer, a complete sense of anxiety takes over because soccer is not my thing and I failed miserably at it. Even so, with each carefully crafted play for the ball, connected pass and goal made, I feel the joy it comes from working hard and that hard work paying off.
With each game, competition and training session, my inner child is experiencing it vicariously through my own children, and it brings me so much joy and hope for the future.
As a child, I had dreams of being the next Olympic gymnast, WNBA basketball player and professional track athlete. I worked hard to hone my crafts and eventually earned a scholarship as a track athlete at a Division 1 school.
And that's where my story ended.
After years of school, a little bit of burnout and filled with the desire to be a mother, my goals shifted and the trajectory of life changed. And just like every athlete with unrealized dreams, there have been times of "what if," but mostly I'm not only content but completely happy with the direction I chose.
Now I get to watch my children create their own path to success and experience that success vicariously through them — which isn't such a bad thing.
Because living vicariously doesn't mean that I will experience my dreams through them. And it most definitely doesn't mean that I will be disappointed if their stories end sooner than they had hoped.
As I live vicariously through my children, it helps me to empathize with their feelings of success and even failure. I can help them navigate this hard world of competitive athletics as far as they want to go.
And when it does come to an end, I hope to stand on the sidelines as they watch their own children perform in their respective events, knowing full-well they are doing much more than watching.