With the graduation of my second child quickly approaching I am realizing how different the life lessons we learn from each child is. Now mind you my three kids are completely different. My oldest daughter has always been completely focused on having a career in Opera. My son is one of those people who can not only pick up any sport very easily but tends to excel at them all. Then my youngest daughter, well the jury is still out on here but she's always been able to excel at what she wants whether it was sports or an art with minimal training.
Parenting an athlete has brought its own set of realities.
- You learn very quickly that your schedule is not your own. While granted this is pretty true with any activity your child is involved in with sports it is a bit different. Practices run late. If a game before yours runs overtime your schedule is now upside down.
- Unlike the arts most often you do not get to choose your child's coach/mentor. When they first start out playing they are simply lumped on a team with every other eager child. You are told when practices are.
- Weather issues come into play and you have to adapt. In one season you may go from relaxing in your foldable sports chair enjoying the breeze to be huddled under blankets or searching out the tiniest bit of shade
- INJURIES. From a simple tumble on the field or falling from the high bar they are simply going to happen. Allowing someone else to be the "first on the scene" and in control of a situation involving your child.
- Expenses. Simply put sports no matter what you are involved in gets more and more expensive. Whether you need private coaching or are traveling to a tournament every other weekend. Playing sports takes a toll on family finances.
Patrick started out playing one season of T-Ball then absolutely fell in love with soccer. For the better part of 8 years he ruled on the field. Then side lined by an illness he had to walk away from the world he loved. In the summer of 2010 he thought he might like to play tennis. He had a friend teach him and they played one or two games over the summer. Last year he made our school's tennis team. This year he is ranked third in singles and first in doubles. All at once our life fell into all of those athletic realities once again. For good and for bad it has generally been an enjoyable season. Then it happened. Patrick had a game Tuesday (which being a boy/senior/teenager) he forgot to tell us about. We got the call to pick him up from school like usual and I went to get him. As he walked to the car I knew something was wrong. This wasn't a "lost both matches" wrong. He was hurt.
With each sport there are certain injuries you "expect" or maybe simply you're just not surprised occur. When he broke his foot in second grade playing soccer as much as it was rough you expects things like that. Meg being sore and bruised while learning a full eagle on the uneven bars was not surprising. Even Em calling with an exhausted voice after a long week of performances is not surprising. Seeing my son's leg and ankle torn ripped up knocked me for a loop.
Towards the end of a 2hour+ match he reached over his head and somehow twisted in such a way that he slid across the court tearing up his calf and ankle. Even his tennis shoes didn't escape unscathed. Being a "mind set" player he got up finished the set and won the match 10-8.
His leg looks as if he skidded off a motorcycle and got road burn, they call it court burn in tennis. Twisted ankles, sprained wrists, these are the injuries I expect in Tennis. Court Burn~ not so much. Four days later the wounds are still nasty red and are painful.
This was a new lesson for me. In the past we have always been at our kids sporting events. And if for some strange weird reason we weren’t had they gotten hurt, even in a minor sense, we would have gotten a phone call; If not from the coach from another parent. Nope, didn’t happen. But then again this is High School tennis. There is no booster club uniting the parents. There is one coach for V/JV Boys and Girls Tennis teams. And simply realized, it wasn’t a big deal and they let Patrick handle the situation.
So with all the realities of parenting athletes what I have learned is this:
· You hurt every time they don’t win
· You hurt every time they don’t play as well as they wanted to
· You hurt every time they get hurt
· You smile every time they lost
· You smile every time they play well
· You smile every time they come home in one piece
· You’re proud as they learn to lose graciously
· You’re proud as they learn to win graciously
· You learn an allegiance to a team of kids you never met before
· You learn to let someone else become the “IT” person in your child’s life
· You learn to not hate the phrase “Coach SAYS”
· You learn that crockpot meals are a godsend
· You learn the importance of carpooling
· You learn that unfortunately not all teammates have supporting parents
· You learn that you’re proud to be “Patrick’s Mom” and not Bren
Most importantly you learn that your child has the ability to take something that they simply thought would be fun to try and turned that into a passion. You have been given the gift of seeing that your child regardless of how they handle anything else in life can be dedicated to the concept of a team, work well with others and understand hard work.
I have watched my son go from playing a sport because it was fun to developing a passion for success. I’ve watched him grow from a little boy into a man and it happened while he was playing sports.