Things have been a little shaky in the parenting circles we run in lately. It makes you step back and wonder just how you’re doing as a parent. If you’re not filled with self-doubt sometimes, you’re not doing it right. While that’s been on my mind lately, I had something happen to me with Boy #1 that makes this terrifying path of parenthood all worthwhile.
I’m coaching his flag football team this spring and its 4-6th grade. He’s a smaller 4th grader so I was a little concerned that he’d either get ignored, flattened, or just overwhelmed. I was thrilled after the first practice when he held his own by using his speed (no idea where he got that), and love for the game to prove that he belonged. And let me tell you; a big 6th grader is light years ahead of a small 4th grader (this is coming from a former small 4th grader).
It was clear after the first two games that we had some issues at quarterback. Our two QBs had a total of seven interceptions and we couldn’t move the ball — at all. After the second game, Boy #1 came up to me and told me he wanted to try to play quarterback. I told him he’d get a shot if he practiced during the week and could assure me he was ready for the responsibility. I talk a lot in practice about the QB being the coach on the field — the leader.
Game day came and he warmed up with our other QB. His throwing motion has come a long way since last year and he’s good at moving in the pocket. Once the game had started, he came up to me and his face was white and eyes as big as dinner plates.
Boy#1: “I don’t wanna play quarterback anymore.”
Me: “Why not?”
Boy 1: “I’m scared.”
Me: “That’s normal. Anyone in your position would be a little scared right now. In fact, I’d be worried if you weren’t a little nervous. You can do this, I wouldn’t put you out there if I didn’t think you could do the job.”
As a parent I could have put someone else in and protected my little angel from anything bad that might happen, or I could throw him out there with words of encouragement and let him succeed or fail on his own. I chose the latter.
He wasn’t just scared — he was shitting his pants. The other team’s QB was at least a foot taller, starting a teenage mustache and looked like he rode a bitchin’ mini-bike to the game. A couple of our players knew Boy #1 was a little freaked and assured him that he could handle the duties — like good teammates do.
We ended up losing the game, but he played his ass off — spending most of his time at QB running for his life. He was happy after the game and carried himself a little taller.
The best thing to come from the game wasn’t that he played well, it’s that he was terrified to step up and did it anyway. It would have been easier not to try at all and sit on the sideline with a “stomach ache.” But then I would not have done my job as a dad and parent. There is nothing better in life that finding out that you’re capable of more that you thought. Being nervous is a good thing when you use it to grow and surprise yourself.
Our job as parents is not to protect our kids so much that they never get their feelings hurt, scrape a knee, or never lose. We need to give them the tools to survive — sink or swim. Teaching them (or just pushing them in the right direction) to muster the courage to get what they want, expand their horizons, or to set those goals a little higher will pay off most when we’re not around to see it.