Isn’t it weird that all those cringe-worthy memories you have hidden since childhood come back rearing their ugly head when you have kids? I’m talking about the painful stuff that you worked hard to overcome – the stuff that made you who you are. The reason you push or protect your children from going through those same things. And oftentimes it happens to revolve around sports.
My husband was told he had weak ankles – that’s why he wouldn’t become a good skater. I was yelled at often by coaches who thought I should be better because I was so tall. (No one thought there might be a connection to my lack of confidence and not wanting to make mistakes to being screamed at as a 10 year old on the basketball court.) We didn’t quit though. And neither will our kids.
Our five and a half year old son just started playing basketball. And by playing I mean he slaps the ball down with the palm of his hand and runs after it. He throws the ball half-way to the net of an already lowered hoop. He plays like a kid who has never played before – because he hasn’t. He didn’t ask to join. But he was in it. I had seen something on Facebook about a six week basketball camp and thought, “That’s how we are going to get through part of winter! Watch him play a sport his dad loved to play and learn some new skills!” When he said he didn’t like it after two weeks, we weren’t too surprised. He really hasn’t fallen in love with sports yet. But when he told me it makes him feel embarrassed, it broke my heart.
Like other parents, we want to expose our children to different things and see what they like. Sports offers so many life skills. And we don’t put them in much. (But the math-o-lympics don’t start for a few years.) When I see my son struggle, I feel the same feeling of frustration that I felt as a child and want him to avoid it. So I almost let him quit – almost.
But we aren’t raising quitters. Children will try to get out of work. They push our buttons and test what they can get away with. Not quitting. Habits follow them into adulthood. Yes you can quit dance. Yes you can quit college. Yes you can quit your job and move back home. Yes you can quit your marriage. Yes you can quit your obligations and declare bankruptcy. Nope, not in our house.
So my lovable and sensitive son finished the rest of his sessions. We talked about doing his best and not comparing himself to the other kids. To try hard and have fun. (Which meant sticking the cone he was meant to dribble around on his head. And stick his head inside of his shirt.) I made a point to catch him doing things right and point out where he was getting better. He never made a basket. (I made it through an entire kickball season without getting on first base so I know how it is.) But he got closer to the rim. We ignored the dad who yelled, “Faster son! Just dribble it faster!” during drills. He did his best. And he never has to play basketball again unless he wants to. We are more proud of him finishing than we would have if he made a game-winning shot. Because life is not about winning, but getting up each time you fall. Working through problems until time is up. And hopefully this little life lesson will sink in and he’ll know that everything will be fine – as long as you don’t give up.
(Head shot by Tracy Walsh Photography.)