So here we are in the throes of summer. In California, the heat wave is intense and I’ve spent quite a few days with Miss Thing at the pool in her first year on swim team. It is a highly social and time consuming endeavor. Like everything else in their little lives, it requires both money and time.
My mom and I were talking about swim team the other day. I happen to live on the street I grew up on – so I’ve known about the swim club most of my life. But we didn’t belong when I was a kid. We couldn’t afford the extra $400/year for the membership back in the 80s. It’s a little sliver of how far we have come as a family – how much my parents choices, some arbitrary and some intentional, have shaped our lives for generations.
My parents put everything they had into living in this SF suburb. They sent me to Catholic school from preK-high school. My father has a couple years of high school under his belt. My mom immigrated from Peru when she was 18 and did some junior college classes. I have a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and am a homeowner in an affluent suburb. We can afford to send Miss Thing to the swim club, ballet, have a tutor so she doesn’t fall behind. That’s a lot of privilege to gain in a generation.
I’ve been thinking a lot about swimming and summer. About what I want Miss Thing to gain from this experience. I want her to have confidence, to see that working hard can be fun and can make you better. This might be the first activity that she loves enough to really put her own effort into. I think that is the heart of most athletic and artistic endeavors. Why the advanced students in her ballet school are super star students. It’s that when you have discipline and learn to excel at something, it bleeds into the rest of your life and you are more likely to excel in everything you do.
Which brings me back to what my family has gained in a generation. How through hard work and good fortune, and good decisions and some lucky turns of tide, my parents landed me here. To this place where I can afford to give all this to my kids. This place is America. We are the American dream. I don’t think that this dream was meant to build privilege, just solid opportunities. I hope my kids have the opportunity to succeed in a country that wants to ensure that opportunity for all. That’s the America we will celebrate this week. Happy Summer, and Happy Fourth of July!