How do we stack up?

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Transcendental Dad


My daughter’s school has started a new club: cup stacking. Every week, a bunch of kids get together after school in the library
for an hour and practice this sport. with Mr. O, the school’s beloved gym teacher.

A couple months ago, I’m guessing because he had nothing else lined up, Mr. O had the elementary set do some cup stacking as part of their normal weekly gym and physical fitness period.

Cup stacking, as it turns out, was a huge hit. So, he formed a club. A club my 8-year-old loves.

In case this competition hasn’t yet come to your neighborhood, cup stacking, sometimes known as sport or speed stacking, is an individual and team competitive sport that involves stacking nine or twelve specially designed cups in pre-determined sequences as quickly as possible. Players compete against each other or against a clock. There are state and national tournaments and a governing body, the World Sport Stacking Association, that set the rules and holds tournaments.

This is a real thing. Really. Search for it on YouTube. There are videos of kids cup stacking that defy explanation, not to mention gravity.

“Daddy, my favorite is the 6-10-6 stack.” Little Bean is chattering on and I’m trying to keep up. “The cups have special holes that let air get through so you can stack them faster. I think Target sells them.”

This may not surprise you, but all through her growing interested in cup stacking, I have rarely thought much about the cups. Or the stacking.

Rather, as I always am, I find myself more interested in what and why she’s interested in something; even more so when, like in this case, her interest blossoms from something outside the purview of our house.

In other words, her mother and myself had nothing to do with this particular hobby. This one was all her.

She’s at that age now, of course, when it’s proper and well that she begins to create her own little universe of interests and hobbies. My job is to facilitate and see if it takes off or is just a passing fancy.

Guitar playing. Staled out.

Puzzle making. Nope.

Skateboarding. Lasted a week.

But with everything that fizzles, something sticks. Swimming. Ice skating. Geology. Painting. Going strong and getting more intense.

And now, I guess, cup stacking.

I’m going to make a sizable comparative leap here, so stick with me.

We recently took Little Bean to see her first Cirque du Soleil and we marveled at the shear athleticism of the performers. Their abs had abs. And we wondered out loud on the way home what it took in their life to become those people.

What drives someone to do that? You obviously have to start as a child, and work hard at it. Every. Single. Day. What if Little Bean began to develop more than a passing interest? What if her passion went beyond simple facilitation? Could we manage that – should we? Is there a moral element to consider when it come to allowing children to be children?

What if I took something like cup stacking, and pushed it, and her. Would she excel, or would reinforced attention drive her away.

My wife, as always, gave me the answer with a simple observation.

“When did you start writing,” she asked, knowing the answer.

Fourth grade is the answer. Just a couple years older than my daughter. I didn’t stop. My parents and aunt and uncle encouraged me, bought me books, read my silly stories and poems. They took me to the library. They took my interest seriously.

What does that have to do with Cirque du Soleil? Well, like them, I worked hard at my craft, spent hours and hours and job after job getting better, trying to – well – be good at words, both because I needed to make a living but also because I liked it. I like it still.

Art and craft and passion are always entwined. Whether you’re spinning 50 feet above a stage or building the perfect sentence, or yes, trying to best your cup stacking time with a 3-6-3 combo.

If you’re young, you work at it and get better. If you’re a veteran, you show others how it’s done. If one of these hobbies becomes a career for Little Bean, then that’s what it will be and I’ll be there with her every step of the way.

In the meantime, later in the evening after one of her Cup Stacking Club get togethers, Little Bean tracks me down.

“Daddy,” she begins, “Mr. O says that the cups we use are pretty cheap ad it would be fun if could practice at home.”

It’s not the circus, but who am I to judge the things she loves. She sits down next to me, I open my laptop and begin to facilitate.

Stacking Cups
Little Bean has found her cup-stacking groove.

About this Author

Dan Szczesny

Dan Szczesny is a longtime journalist and author who lives with his wife and energetic daughter in Manchester. Dan writes a daily journal called Day By Day where you can subscribe for FREE to get essays, articles and updated. Learn more about Dan’s adventures and Day By Day at https://danszczesny.substack.com/