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    My Personal Experience of Being Close to My Dad

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    That is my dad. Yes, he is smart and he can be loving even, but first and foremost he lives and breathes tennis. As the sun hits my face and sweat runs down my forehead, I just stand there watching him play. I want to be like him someday. I want to be just like him. That is what I thought as a young child so long ago and still do to this day; I want to be like my dad. Really, I believe I wanted to be not just like him but be with him. I wanted him to see me like others saw him. I wanted to be special. As the middle kid of five children with two older brothers, catching a father’s attention can be difficult.

    So, I did what any rational little girl would do, I started playing tennis. I played day and night. In middle school I dropped cheerleading mid-season and asked to be homeschooled so I could get better at tennis and the incredible crazy thing was my dad started to notice me. Not just as his little girl anymore but as an athlete, “a chip of the old block.” The more I played tennis, the more attention I got. As a freshman I high school I was a top player in our state and I was in the paper; Dad would look it up the article, share it with his friend and family and tell me how proud he was of me. When I started to win tournaments, my dad offered to take me to more.

    All by myself! It was awesome! We went out to eat, played tennis and talked. Mostly about tennis but at the time I didn’t care. I had dad all to myself. As the years have gone on and my journey has now become more of my own, I have begun to see my dad as more of a dad than a superhero. Sure, he will always be that to me in a way but he has started to become a friend. Now that I am in college and over the past couple of years my dad and I have really started to talk and the great part is that once in awhile it doesn’t involve tennis. I think to myself that our relationship will change with baby steps as we start to know each other as people not just tennis players.

    I don’t know if our relationship would have become more than just that very basic narrative of, dad and daughter we started out with if it wasn’t for tennis. It is because of all of the small and numerous moments alone at tournaments and on the court which gave us the opportunity to know each other in terms of who we are as people which bond us and strengthen our tie. As number three of five children, I am the closest to my dad. Though my brothers play tennis and other sports, they didn’t work to gain his attention and praise as I did. I believe he acknowledges that and it makes him proud and at the same time it is a lot to realize what an influence he had on me.

    We talked about that in recent years as communication has become more open and honest. Before I would not have admitted to anyone that I played tennis to impress my dad, but it is the truth and I can own it now. He laughed when I told him because it brings back memories of his own childhood and how he had a similar relationship with his dad. He is what people call the favorite in his family as I am to him. Maybe the beginning of my infatuation with my dad was a bit over the top but what little girl doesn’t see her dad as a hero? I know none.

    But what is clear is that I have gained a rich and full identity due to the confidence I gained as a person and a player because of my interactions with my dad and it was his opinion that I cared and needed the most in my youth but as we have both changed and matured, I am able to be an independent thinker who now is not so infatuated but more appreciative of him and his role in my life. He has calmed these past years and has now learned to put tennis second to his relationships which has been a blessing for our whole family. Though my dad “talks in tennis,” we all understand him.

    The difference is now he makes it more about what others want instead of just what he likes. A great example is my younger twin sisters. They will never be division I tennis players though they do try, but their interests are more in the arts, dance, theater and choir. It would have been beyond tenuous for dad to sit or go to a concert but now he does it and seems to enjoy himself. So, it is not just about how my relationship with my dad has changed and evolved, I believe it is because of our relationship that he was able to see how he needed to change as well. Though I may always be his favorite tennis player, I don’t think I hold the favorite child place anymore and that is ok because now, I share the title with my brothers and sisters.

    This became evident at one of the last matches my dad came to see me play in high school when I was playing one of my toughest matches. It used to be dad would never stop watching. He kept score of every point and would even go tell my coach what I needed to do. I loved the attention but on this occasion both of my little sisters were also playing and instead of focusing on me, he went and watched each of them. This may not sound life changing, but for me it was one of those pivotal moments where you realize something big has happened. I believe that day a change took place in my dad which ultimately changed our dynamic. It may not have felt great at that the time but it was also a moment where I felt proud of my dad and happy for my sisters because if nothing else one should take away from this is that daughters need their dad’s attention and praise. As we move forward, it is clear I will always be close to my dad. We talk and text a lot and now it isn’t just about tennis.

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