I am a highly excitable person. And I am proud to be the genetic descendant of a long line of highly excitable people. Half my family is highly excitable, and the other half near-comatose. Whether this is a mere coincidence or a Darwinian-honed survival skill, I will not venture to guess. But I have my theories.
I am psychologist who has endured countless years of graduate study related to human behavior, as well as innumerable seminars purporting to train mental health professionals to use "coping skills" meant to keep such excitability at bay. However, one of the reasons I was able to get a doctoral degree and spend subsequent years preparing for grueling licensing examinations (while birthing and rearing babies--at times while simultaneously participating in the aforementioned professional activities) is because I am hard-wired to resist the "mindfulness" and "guided relaxation" practices that my academic predecessors espouse. Those that can, do; those that can't, spend years in graduate school in order to have a prayer of someday being employable.
So it is not surprising that for me both nature and nurture collided and I produced at least one child predisposed to the irrepressibility of spirit that has marked many generations of my bloodline. Take a hair-trigger startle reflex, add a hefty dose of killer competitiveness, and mix in a "the world sucks" mentality, and you get a sense of half the DNA my poor children have inherited. And not from their father.
One of the best ways to witness one's personality quirks in vivo is to go out in public. Preferably in a highly charged environment like a sporting event in which one's child is a participant. Seriously, what's the deal with those parents calmly sitting on the sidelines, quietly returning to the Atlantic article they were reading when their child is not on the court? And the parental dyads with a single offspring who are thoughtfully discussing how junior's Kenpo training helps him better execute a zone defense? These alien creatures add to the stress of watching boys of startling variability in height, athletic prowess and attentional skills attempt to win a basketball game. Hello??? Sports, like politics, are a BFD, and are no place for calm and reason.
Recently, I was seated next to a quiet couple whose son apparently was on the same team with my child. I have no idea which boy belonged to them, because they watched the game with no reaction whatsoever. They most likely had no idea which child was mine either, because I was bellowing "DEE-FENSE!!!!!," "shoot... Shoot..... SHOOT!!!!!" to any 10 year old wearing white on the court in front of me. Perhaps it became evident which boy was my offspring when four of the five boys responded to my directives with a blank stare, while one appeared agitated by every play and each call by the referee. Trust me, nothing rattles the nerves of we high-strungers more than the piercing shriek of a whistle in the midst of bouncing balls, waving arms, and pungent odor.
The nice parents next to me politely nodded as I shared with them our family philosophy of how basketball is just a game, and the important thing is to have fun and support your team. I may not have had a chance to fully explain our Zen approach to sports because at that moment my son appeared distressed at a call by the ref, prompting me to calmly excuse myself from the conversation with these lovely people to provide my son emotional guidance: "JESUS CHRIST! CALM THE HELL DOWN!"