With over three minutes left in my son’s basketball game, I walked out.
For the better part of an hour, I had watched my child run up and down the court, pass the ball, throw up shots, and guard his opponent. I had also watched him throw his head back, complain that he was not responsible for the foul, and cry tears of frustration as he walked to the bench and buried his head in his jersey.
I was raised to hide my feelings of inadequacy. It wasn’t my parents’ fault. That’s just how everyone operated in the 70s and 80s. Before the days of filters, selfies, and good angles, my parents had to make due with what they had. Feelings were private emotions best left to the quiet conversations in the car or at home. So I was frustrated and embarrassed to see my son’s every negative emotion on full display. He’s an incredibly talented athlete. But he is his worst critic.
As I walked to the car, I sent a prayer out into the sky above me. “Why can’t he control his emotions?” I asked. I thought about grounding him, yelling at him, shaming him. Trust me, all of the thoughts went through my mind. This is the truth of parenting. Our first reaction is usually a human one. It was bathed in my own need for approval and was completely selfish. I need him to have it all together because I am fully aware that I DO NOT have it together. As I prayed and asked God what the heck to do with this situation, I felt a gentle thought invade my heart. “Ask for help.”
So I literally googled, “How to help your child stop crying while playing basketball.” I love Jesus and sometimes He speaks to me through google.
The first and only article I read doused my fire like a bucket of water. “Don’t shame or punish your child when they cry during a competition. You will only exacerbate the issue. They have perfectionistic tendencies and this will cause them to have even more performance anxiety when they know they are going to let you down with their lack of emotional control.” The answer was a gentle and loving one. Find out why they are struggling. What is going through their mind as they struggle up and down the court. I showed the article to my husband and he sat with our son privately and asked him to put words to the feelings he felt during the game. I read through the thoughts tonight and they broke my heart. “I’m mad at myself because I missed the shot.” “I’m making my team lose instead of win.” “I am mad at myself because I can’t keep my head up.” “I’m screaming at myself to KEEP CALM!”
He is a year younger than his teammates and he is trying to play older and wiser than he is ready for emotionally. Physically, he has everything he needs. But he is beating himself up the entire time. I sat with him tonight and we talked. I told him that I was very sorry that I walked out. That was a crappy mom thing to do. I promised him that I wasn’t mad at him and told him that I knew he was struggling and that we would do everything we could to help him through it. He has so many years of sports ahead of him. I know he will succeed, but he needs my help. He smiled at me with tears in his eyes and said, “It’s ok, mom. I know it will get better.”
Parenting is no joke. I don’t think our first reactions can always be trusted. They are often poisoned by our own issues. I’m so grateful that God answers when we call and that He is teaching me how to be a good mom. This, parenting, is part of my restoration story. God is using my role as a parent to refine me and file away the rough edges. I am selfish. I care too much what other people think. I put pressure on my children to make me look like I’m winning at this mom gig. In reality, I am able to see the ways I fall short and need Jesus to complete the equation. If you see my kids out and you think to yourself, “Those are some really great kids,” do not be fooled. It is only because I realized that I can’t do it by myself and I need a Savior…and also google. Fist bump, parents…this job is WORK!
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