Monday, May 21, 2012

It's How You Play the Game

It's usually the adults that ruin the game.

There's the Annoying Mom I've mentioned before who screams shrill orders to her daughter any time the ball even looks like it might come to her side of the field. There's the Condescending Dad who swears every ref of every game is in the pocket of every opponent. The there is the ref who does seem to be in the pocket of the opponent. There's the coach who threatens parents, demeans his own players, and even calls the opposing team (of 14 year old girls,mind you) assholes! Yes, it actually happened. I'm sure it wasn't the first time and won't be the last.

 The vast array of nut gallery parent members include Pushers, Enablers, Vicarious Livers, Dream Crushers, Overbookers and Overlookers. And that's just the parents.  Some of the coaches are even worse.

But through it all, if you're lucky, there will come a voice of reason. A voice of sanity, calm and authoritative, yelling from the sidelines, "I need for you to find a way to be great right now. Find a way to be great!"

The voice came from a woman who knew that was all that needed to be said. She was the one who had poured her expertise out into these girls. She was the one teaching new skills, organizing creative drills, and wringing every ounce of effort and determination from our girls practice after practice while she cradled her infant baby on her hip and her toddler son played at her feet. She was the one who demanded respect for their coach, for their team, for their game, for themselves. She was the one who knew what they were capable of and managed to get them to know it, too. She was ultimately the one responsible for this win or this loss, and  she was the one with the calm assurance, "Find a way to be great!"

She didn't feel the need to move players around like chess pieces. She didn't beg them to hustle or point out bad passes. She simply encouraged our girls to be great.

My eyes filled with tears and whatever pointless thing I was getting ready to yell to our team caught in my throat. What else was there to say.

Organized youth sports is a strange phenomenon. Sometimes, when I see 14 year olds nursing injuries that 20 years ago plagued only college athletes, I wonder what we've set our kids up for. When I see 17 and 18 year olds throwing away a decade of training because they are simply sick of it, I wonder if it's worth it. When kids are routinely embarrassed at the actions of Annoying Mom and Condescending Dad and Paid-off Ref, I question my own parenting priorities. But when I hear the voice of my daughter's coach encouraging greatness week after week after week, I know I've done something good. In the craziness of youth soccer, my daughter has been instilled with an example of class and a path to greatness. I know it is the lesson that will stay with her long after the final whistle is blown.

Too often, it's the adults who ruin the game. Often, it's the adults who can save it, as well. Thanks for being great, Coach.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

You Know What Sucks?

It's one of those phrases often spoken in our house. Actually, it's often projected, spat or yelled in disgust, frustration, and annoyance. "You know what sucks?" And because we are a brood of smart alecs, someone always answers, "Yeah, a vampire." "A vacuum?" "Your face?!" (Aren't we lovely?) I've recently, however, discovered a  better answer, a real answer. It's answer I will probably never admit to my kids because it's a little too real.

What sucks is when you realize that your philosophy for daily living is completely flawed.

For decades now, my philosophy has been to never be the reason another person feels bad. I've lectured this message to my kids many times. It's been a couple of years now that I've understood the flaw in that belief. It's too much responsibility. It has only been recently that I've truly understood the consequences of parenting through this philosophy. Athough I DON'T want to be the reason someone else feels bad, I can't take on the responsibility of never ever doing anything that will result in disappointment for someone else. I also can't take away any and all possibility of hardship or stress for my kids so that they never have to experience it. That's what we want to do, isn't it? We want to make it all okay, so they never experience heartbreak, failure, loss, When we do that, however, we set up ourselves and our children for a whole lot of what sucks--namely, real life consequences.

I distinctly remember my senior year when I had once again taken on way more than I could handle. I was in charge of a whole lot of Homecoming stuff that HAD to be completed by Friday before kickoff. I remember literally shaking and crying my way through the school day because I knew it would never all get done. I rushed home after school to find that my mom had been very busy that day. She had taken care of everything. I cried with relief and was able to enjoy my Homecoming! That is such a strong memory for me. My mom put out my fire without my even having to ask. She just knew. She created relief, joy, contentment for me. For two decades I'm been trying to recreate that feeling from the other side of the parent/child relationship. That moment of relief was so strong that I completely forgot about all the other life lessons my Mom taught me.

I forgot about the "grounded one day for every minute you're late" lesson. I forgot about the" anything that needs to be said can be said in a 15 minute phone conversation" lesson. And the related "it can also be said on the family phone in front of the parents" lesson. I forgot about the "if you didn't have time to do homework, I guess you have too much social life" lesson. I forgot about the "any boy who wants to spend time with you must want to spend time with the family too" lesson. I forgot about th e"later you get home Saturday, the earlier Church starts on Sunday" lesson. I certainly forgot about the" only clothes that make it the laundry room get washed" lesson as well as the "I cooked the meal, you do the dishes" lesson. I even forgot about the" you want the pet, feed the pet" lesson.

So you know what really sucks? When you realize that all the things you said you'd never do when you had kids of your own, you really should have done all along. I guess the consolation is that since it took 40 years for me to realize that my mom actually did know what she was doing, maybe it will take that long for my kids to realize that I don't! I think I've got them fooled, for the most part.

Or  maybe I'm wrong about that, too. If so, that would really suck!