I have three children. All three are involved with STUFF. All three need rides, need shoes and equipment, need practices, need special food/beverages; they are NEEDY.
For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am a competitive mom – not the sugar coat it with “great job, good effort” mom. I’m the “if you did this or this or this different, you’d have made that basket (or the tackle or caught the ball)” mom. Not a real pretty character trait and definitely not one I want to pass on to my children. It’s so bad my children and husband don’t usually want to play board games with me because I will do whatever WHATEVER it takes to win. I hate to lose, always have. I have trash-talked to my own children (even when they were preschoolers. I am NOT going to lose at Memory to a 4 year old. It just isn’t going to happen). One of my coaches in high school told me second place is the first loser. That has stuck with me forever.
“Second place is the first loser.” ~ most motivating (and flawed) coach of my life
Just recently, I’ve realized how significantly flawed I am. My children are encouraged to participate in something so they aren’t bored, so they are part of something bigger than themselves. Yet, I do not allow them to be themselves if there’s a win or loss to be recorded. I sometimes push them so hard they begin to hate the things they are in, but only because I make it not fun for them anymore. Why oh why is this so hard for me?
Youth sports are supposed to be fun. They are supposed to teach kids to love the game, the event, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, leadership, teamwork, how to win gracefully and lose gracefully. Yet, I’m pushing, yelling, and thinking I’m being helpful. Newsflash: I’m not. I’m the worst kind of parent at moments like these.
Now, my saving grace is that I try not to say these things in the arena’s they are performing in (whether it is a theatre, a playing field, or other venue). I do, however, say things immediately upon entering the car. Ugh.
I love sports. I love football the most. I don’t follow certain players or teams too closely, but I understand the game and the strategy…and I love it. My daughter is fortunate that she never showed even a little interest in wanting to play football (although she is impressively knowledgeable about the game itself). For my sons, fortunate isn’t probably the word they would use. This past year my oldest son played football with a group of extremely athletic and competitive kids. They weren’t a great team compared to the other teams they played, but they had heart, seriously. My frustration came when my son wasn’t getting playing time even if they were losing by over 20 points (I mean, really, the game is pretty much over at that point, play the second string, coach). He isn’t the biggest kid or the fastest or the strongest, but when he’s on the field, he is trying. I know that at the level he played it wasn’t about equal playing time for youth sports; it was about winning. I completely support that theory. However, when you’re losing by a major margin, give some kids a chance to have game experience. Anyway, long story short, I asked my son after a few of these kinds of games if he was having fun. He said, “Yep. It’s fun to be on the team.” Silence from this mother. What?!? I thought to myself, Don’t you want to win? Don’t you want to play more? Why don’t you try harder to get more playing time? Then I realized, for him and likely lots of other kids, he doesn’t care if he doesn’t play in game situations. He literally just wants to be on the team, part of something bigger than himself. He just enjoys the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the TEAM.
Fast forward a few months to my youngest and his experience with basketball. This was not a good situation for multiple reasons, but at the end I was not interested in attending the team party because it didn’t make sense to me since they never won a game and what was there to celebrate?!?! My husband gave me a look (THE look) and said, “I’ll take him.” Ugh. Pathetic parenting on my part. Why oh why am I like this?
Recently I saw a quote from a blog – www.momastery.com – that summed up my current state of mind. Insert the word COMPETITIVE before the word GOOD…or don’t. It’s all truth no matter how you read it.
I’m a work in progress, I’m not perfect – this is obvious, I know. I’ve realized it’s not about me. It’s about them and building relationships with other kids their age, and adults who invest in them, and learning how practice pays off, and learning new things, pushing themselves to achieve and grow physically, and experiencing the best (and worst) of competition. It’s about life lessons, even if we’re almost 40 and still learning them ourselves.
While I may still critique and judge their performances, I will try to do so with more love. I will fall off this wagon of positivity on occasion. I will try to appreciate the mistakes as much as the effort. I will be their cheerleader even when it’s hard to do so. I will show up and be positive (even if it’s 30 degrees and raining). I will be competitive on the Wii or the PS3. (all bets are off when there are video games involved – and I usually lose these with lots of excuses and whining – unless it’s “Just Dance”, then this girl has moves). Competition is good. Winning is awesome. Hard work and perseverance are lifelong qualities for many different fields – business, church, school, athletics, theatre, gardening, RAISING CHILDREN, MARRIAGE. Losing can be good, especially when the team tried their hardest and pulled together as a team. All things with winners and losers are good. Life is like that – not everyone deserves a trophy or accolades just for trying or just for showing up. Sometimes we (I) need to just not take it so seriously. After all, Michael Jordan didn’t make the varsity basketball team on his first go-round when he was in high school, and he turned out okay. Chris Daughtry got eliminated from American Idol, yet he went on to record albums and be successful. Just sayin’.
This weekend, I get to watch my daughter at the State Finals of One-Act theatre. I don’t know if I can yell and scream and hoot and holler at this, but I’m gonna try. I mean, seriously, if we are going to have competitive theatre, there needs to be cheerleaders. And cheerleaders should be loud and obnoxious and NOISY during competition. Bring it, theatre people.
“There are two gifts we should give our children; one is roots and the other is wings.” ~ Anonymous
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” ~ Colossians 3:17 (NIV)