I could hear the sound of helicopters flying over DC this morning as I lay awake in bed. It’s a common enough sound, and it goes with the business of running a federal government. But this morning, after the news about Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and their friends and teammates, it rattled me and I can’t shake the feeling.
Do you have that one thing you do for your kids because they love it so much? You do it even though it’s expensive and time-consuming and you have aged a full decade rushing home from work in time to cram a drive-thru dinner into the kids before fighting rush-hour traffic to get them to the 6 pm game at the arena clear across town. Ahem, for example.
But you do it not just because they love it, and not just because it’s good for them, but also because it lights up their souls with such passion and purpose. And when you see that kind of joy in your child, you know that you are also doing it for yourself.
For our family, that thing is girls’ baseball.
We spent every summer long weekend for years on end at baseball tournaments, turning stays at suburban motor inns into summer vacations. One year, when it looked like my daughter might not have a team to play on the next season, my husband and a handful of other parents started their own team. My husband spent every spare moment coaching that team, leading practices, writing up game plans—he even built a scoreboard in our dining room. And when we moved to DC last summer, one of the first things we did was find another girls’ league for my daughter to play in.
I joked once to a couple of girlfriends that the bond I’d felt with my babies while breastfeeding was like my husband’s connection to the kids while coaching them. And I worried that when the kids eventually do wean off team sports, it would be hardest on him. But the truth is that one of my greatest pleasures as a mom is watching my husband and daughter connect over a shared love. He is coaching her to be a better player and a good teammate and in the process, she is helping him grow as a man.
Kobe Bryant was a lot of things, but the image that stands out most to me today is one of a devoted and engaged dad, helping his daughter pursue her own love of basketball. And this morning as the news about the other passengers reveals that they were all 13-year-old girl athletes and their parents and coaches, a lump grows in my throat and I have to squeeze my eyes closed.
Have you ever heard the excited chatter of a group of young women getting ready for a big tournament? It is brimming with ambition and camaraderie and a shimmering sense of a future full of nothing but possibility.
Our collective hearts are broken for those girls, their parents, coaches, teammates and families. The world is a bleaker place today for their loss.