I realized my mistake almost the minute I walked into the gymnasium.
Unfortunately I was in the right location.
There were somewhere between 100 and a thousand seventh- and eighth-grade girls being whipped up into a frenzy to each sell 30 boxes of cookie dough while a parent representative for each child - the one who lost "rock, paper, scissors" to their spouse - looked on with varying degrees of disinterest. (I'm saving my column about the irony of kids in athletics selling junk food and desserts as fundraisers for a later date.)
That wasn't the mistake part. Any parent who's had any child in an extracurricular activity expects his or her child to be out hounding neighbors to buy something.
No, my latest mistake as a dad came to light when the coaches made it known that 6:30 a.m. practices would be part of the schedule.
They upped the ante by saying there may be schedules in which games don't finish until 8 p.m. one day followed by a 6:30 a..m. practice the next day.
Um, these are seventh- and eighth-grade teams, right? I wanted to make sure we hadn't accidentally signed our daughter up for the junior Olympics program or something.
If I had suspected that kind of schedule, there is no way we would have pushed volleyball. Maybe our naivete of the state of kids' athletics is from having only been football parents to this point of our lives.
In football, practice is held after school, and there is one game a week, usually right after school or Saturday morning somewhere nearby.
It is the perfect sport for time-starved and cash-strapped parents. Kids get the full benefits of being part of an athletic team without becoming the center of the family's universe.
Sure we heard rumors of traveling baseball and soccer teams where parents spent entire weekends at tournaments out of town or early ice time for hockey players, but we assumed those parents had lots of time and money for those activities.
To further skew our view of middle school athletics, our son ran track the previous year, and likewise practices and meets were immediately after school.
I figured all middle school athletics would follow suit.
That's why we talked our daughter, who is more awake at 11 p.m. than 11 a.m., into going out for volleyball over many of her reasonable objections.
She pointed out that many of the girls going out for volleyball were on club teams last year.
We chose to counter that argument with something myopic like: "You never know, maybe you'll find out you're really good at volleyball."
Of course she could have pointed to her long history of athletic attempts that met with varying degrees of disinterest.
Soccer? To much running.
Softball? Not enough moving.
Even when she asked me to coach her T-ball team, she was ready to quit two weeks into the season.
Of course we didn't allow her or our son to quit any athletic season or other activity. The 'Q' word had not been uttered in the Higgins house to this point in our mediocre parenting careers. It's been a source of personal parenting pride.
Now, just minutes after hearing '6:30 a.m. practice' I'm thinking how I'm going to talk my wife into allowing our daughter to quit. Pride before the fall, right?
It wasn't a difficult sell.
The next step was spinning this so as to not use the 'Q' word.
We settled on the statement: "We will allow you to switch your school activity to something like show choir (meets two nights a week, after school not at 6:30 a.m.)."
There was a great deal of understanding in her voice as she said, "I told you so."