The parenting experts would have been fuming. I kept telling Abigail that if I raised the miniature basketball net up any higher she wouldn’t be able to make a basket.

“It’ll be too high Abby,” I tried to reason. “You’re not tall enough.” Ugh, that’s not exactly positive reinforcement.

“Up Daddy, up!” she insisted, shooting a frustrated look my way while squeezing her Shrek 2 ball.

As I strolled across the lawn this is what I was thinking: I’ll reluctantly raise the b-ball hoop. She’ll struggle to put the ball in the cylinder, get frustrated, start crying, throw a temper-tantrum, demand to go back inside on this beautiful afternoon, where we will have to sit and watch “Dragon Tales” for the umpteenth time. Or, she’ll lose her balance, come crashing down on the carport’s cement, crack open her head, and then her mom will brand me with a tire iron.

I took my chances and raised the basketball net.

“Up Daddy, up!” she hollered again, unsatisfied that the hoop was already well out of reach.

Her persistence was beginning to inspire me. I raised the net two notches instead of one, stood back, and waited for the frustration of a thwarted 2-year-old to set in. Abigail took two steps back and heaved the ball up. It swished through the net.

I was so proud I nearly squeezed the barrettes out of her hair. I wanted to shout out to the world what my kid had just accomplished. I wanted her on a majestic float in the biggest parade. I wanted her photo in the newspaper, clasping that Shrek 2 ball with a confident grin. I wanted television news stations lining up their satellite-equipped vans down our street.

I settled for a quick victory lap around the yard, with Abigail shrieking on my shoulders.

Norma Rixter reminded me of Abigail’s feat and my reaction to it last week when she called to inform me of her daughter’s recent accomplishment. Norma could barely speak she was just so proud of her daughter Farren, who, two days prior to the call, had been selected Illinois Player of the Year for her efforts in helping Fenwick win its second-straight IHSA State water polo championship. Norma did what every parent does. She bragged about her kid. I listened intently. After all, she was right, Farren deserved the recognition.

“She scored 75 goals last year as a sophomore on the team, over 150 this season, and that’s out of 200 attempts,” Norma praised. “She’s leaving for Utah in a few days to tryout for a national team. She’s also a national merit honors student, did I mention that?”

No, Norma. You also forgot to mention that Farren helped lead the Friars to two consecutive undefeated seasons. And that she was one of the reasons the entire high school enjoyed a day off last week (Win State, get day off).

Norma went on to tell me about her son, Clarence, a former water polo and swimming star at Fenwick now with the Coast Guard in Texas. “Now he’s out saving lives in the water,” she gushed.

I loved it. I took it all in. This is what sports and being a parent are all about: the proud moments.

I felt the same way when I read Catherine Gallogly’s e-mail. Catherine’s daughter, Bridget, a leader on the OPRF girls’ soccer team, tore her ACL before the Huskies entered into the postseason.

“Her generosity and skill creating plays without wanting to score herself, has helped this team be very successful,” wrote Catherine of her daughter. “We are very proud of her sportsmanship and also the way she is dealing with this injury.”

Perhaps Abigail wants me to raise that hoop one more notch?


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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...