Well, you see, Mikaela and Katrianna are also sisters. And best friends. They spend nearly all their time together. Homeschool together. Travel together. Are too two together? Really, like V&S in every way.
Only M&K can't play tennis. No. Not at all. But besides that one little exception -- of sharing 40 Grand Slam titles between them -- our daughters could be the identical twins of the Williams sisters.
They just don't want to be. Not that we haven't tried. And it's not that the Easter Bunny didn't do his part ... nor is it the foot fault of Coach Grandma, who gave them several enthusiastic lessons: to Mikaela, on how to serve and volley, & to Katrianna, on how to scoop up the balls & NOT throw them as far away as possible. (Granted, watching those funny men on the next court rushing the net and, just as they were going for a smash, make contact with one of those errant balls underfoot - well, let's just say, in Katrianna's humble opinion, that was a sport in and of itself.)
Of course, tennis wasn't the only game in town. Or even their first athletic endeavor. I mean, who creates those kinds of expectations for someone who has just come into the world under 24 inches tall? (OK, besides Andre Agassi's parents?) Not us, we were fair. Without any pressure, we patiently let them grow to 2'6." Then we went with basketball.
And, just for the record (is that American or world?), it wasn't like we christened Mikaela with sports in mind. At least not her 1st placed name. Instead, I casually selected her middle name for its sporty nickname potential, something that could be easily shortened and then chanted by stadiums full of adoring fans. That way, her entire identity did not have to be wrapped up in being an athlete. Thoughtful, no?
OK, so she did attend Houston Comets games before she was actually born. Her first shoes were high tops. She dined exclusively on the Breakfast of Champions (mom's milk, supplemented with Special K). She had a Michael Jordan coloring book. And we'd insisted on using Hakeem Olajuwon's brand of drinking water for her baptism.
In terms of nothing-but-net gains, it seemed all was going well. By the tender age of two, Mikaela had learned to slam dunk - her balled up socks - into the Sheryl Swoopes mini hoop rim set over the laundry basket. A guarded Cynthia Cooper [Mom] often assisted with 2 pointers. She even learned to count by keeping score during these grueling five-minute shootarounds. But, most importantly, she gained the confidence & assertiveness necessary for trash talking during pick-up games (ok, that might be unrelated... reminding her dad to take out the garbage is not really the same thing, is it?).
When she was finally ready for Show Time, we presented her with a real hard b-ball (though technically it's still smaller than "real" since it's for girls, pro-playing WNBA 'girls'?). Swish! This is fun! It was easier to dribble, shoot, pass, catch -- until she stretched her hands out and misjudged - Ow! jammed her finger. She responded as any future hall of famer would: shock, anger, disbelief, all culminating in a dirty look shot in my direction. I encouraged her to try again. So she did. Seconds later, Ow! sprained the very same knuckle. I explained that it was just part of the game, better shake it off. So, again, she did. Only not the injury, the whole sport. Just like that, her basketball playing years were over, her last ever jam session done.
[By the time Katrianna was old enough to play, it was too late - she got the "benefit" of her big sister's experience - for Mikaela, unlike some other has-been hoopsters, smooth-moved into retirement with maturity and grace, content in her new role as a tv color commentator: "O my, what excitement! See all those grown ups rolling around on the floor after a silly ball?... Hey, look - there's that player who got a bloody, broken nose and has to wear a plastic face mask. Now listen, Katrianna, Mom says that's just part of the game... Let's watch him try to shake it off!"]
Then there was soccer. Though I never had any aspirations to be a "soccer mom," Chris wasn't about to let that stop him: Take notice, playgroup moms, minivan or no minivan, Daddy's little girls were gonna be fútbol stars! I have to admit, he gave it his all, put in 110%, kept his focus, stuck to the game plan, executed at crunch time, never gave up, just wanted it more, took it one game at a time... no, that last one is not true. In fact, he skillfully used his young prodigies to get a pass to watch not just one or two soccer games on weekends, but whole World Cupfuls of games at a time. For instructional purposes. For the sake of our children. He also read to them daily from scripture (Pelé's My Life and the Beautiful Game), requested they respectfully rise from the couch and sing "Olé, Olé, Olé, Olé, Brasil, Brasil!" every time Ronaldo scored, and, if I proposed that maybe the girls should get back to school (or just go play outside... play some soccer even?), he countered that this was educational: After all, weren't we studying Spanish? And here he was modeling full language immersion, encouraging them to absorb every linguistic nuance this romance language & Univisión's Andréas Cantor had to offer.
As many rookie parents learn, soccer is the first organized team sport available to 3 year olds - so how difficult can it be? The YMCA emphasizes that a successful season is determined by two factors: 1) everyone plays & 2) everyone has fun. Yet, despite three years of attempts, those impossibly high standards remained elusive for our dear daughters. Then again, who am I to judge? It is quite probable that the girls were getting just as tough a cardiovascular workout running away from the ball as they would have had they actually run toward it. Absolutely, the sum total of exercise was impressive. All that bending, stretching, building up a sweat, straining to reach out & score - that perfect dandelion or clover stem needed to complete the fresh-picked flower necklaces they and their friends were braiding on the sidelines (or, not to stifle their creativity, often right in the middle of the field as the game went on about them). Plus, that doesn't even take into account all of the miles logged while traipsing after butterflies... It did make me wonder, exactly how realistic were the goals we were setting for them - or, for that matter, were those goals occupied by the opposing team's goalies? You know, the ones at the end of the field, girls, where the ball is supposed to go? Wait a minute, Dad -- what ball? Even Chris came to accept, as far as M&K were concerned, soccer would forever be an "away game."
We were 0 for 3 with sports. For the love of the game, any game, I decided to throw seven-year-old Mikaela a softball. Spring into action, it was time for Little League! Besides a few rounds of catch with a tennis ball & making sure she didn't knock herself out when swinging a bat (plus showing her how to break in her glove by oiling it, folding it around a ball, placing three rubber bands just so and then sleeping with it under her mattress), I didn't work with Mikaela very much ahead of her inaugural season. We'd been homeschooling for a couple of years & I purposely intended to use this opportunity to let another adult coach her and act as a role model. Not surprisingly, she fared poorly at tryouts. I imagine she was drafted in the last round or two, an afterthought at best.
A few evenings later, I found myself at a champagne reception for parents. It started with a toast: "To the winningest team in the league, for two straight undefeated seasons!" Turned out, amid bites of hors d'œuvres, this was a strategy session. Item #1 (scratch that, the only item) on the agenda: How to manage that again. The head coach boasted he'd exerted all his influence with the board to secure the best practice schedule available - most importantly, one where the weak players would be able to practice on a different field. Nods of appreciation circulated the room. Later, the team mother assured me not to worry, that all the starters made a special point to talk to the other girls between innings in the dugout. Wasn't that nice? Plus, and this was not theoretical, my daughter might not play even one inning in a single game & she could still be guaranteed a first place trophy at the end of the season. Well, thank my lucky stars, Mikaela'd really hit one outta the park this time, hadn't she? Ever so briefly, the mom stared at me, then laughed loudly and suggested, "Now, how's about some more champagne?"
In my own athletic career, I'd made it a practice not to quit. For my daughter, however, I justified that the season hadn't officially begun and perhaps this didn't count because Mikaela had not yet met her teammates (or the bench). Sure, it occurred to me to request a transfer: Please, sir, can you trade my kiddo to the lousy team? Not only would we be pariahs of the league after that, but, if she did end up being good, the potential consequences were even worse: she'd inevitably play for these All-Star coaches eventually and/or, every time she came up to bat, have to subsist on the blue home plate special: daily servings of cheap beanings. The next morning, I stopped by the treasurer's office and explained that something had come up (values, but I didn't specify) and that, due to unforeseen circumstances, I was sincerely sorry that Mikaela would be unable to participate this year (that last part was true, I did feel like one sorry mom for months afterwards). No doubt, it was another missed opportunity for my daughter to win that coveted "good sportsmanship" award - or, if she allowed herself to dream, the "most improved player" plaque - and it was all my fault.
So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe M&K are not exactly like the Williams sisters. The honest conclusion is that Mikaela & Katrianna are actually just like the Andrews Sisters. Well, except there are only two Sarkar Sisters... And they can't sing.
The following is a petition for enTITLEment allowances:
I know, there are some homeschoolers who are really good sports. So good, in fact, that the very reason they homeschool is to free up more time to devote to training, schooling their adversaries on the court and bringing home(school?) the gold. But, those rare, fast-ballin' pitchmen certainly throw off the curve (or is that the slider rule? Ut oh, I'm getting that sinker feeling again... O, screwball it, this jock jargon is just splitting fingers, runs afoul ball of the law of homeschool averages & will never produce a hit anyhow) for typical 'athletically challenged' homeschoolers, who proudly took their ball and went home schooling...
Anyway, "Homeschoolers Are Such Bad Sports" was Title number IX - the first eight I thought up couldn't get equal fun-ding & had to be phased out. Along with - and to the dismay of - my conscience's wrestling squad. Hey, gotta make those cuts somewhere.