Thank you. Sounds crazy right? Trust me; this is NOT how I felt in the moment, but it is so very true now. As a parent it is probably one of the most difficult things to watch your child hurt in any way. When you see them fall apart, the mama bear in me roars to fix it. But there comes a time in their lives where they need to figure out how to receive unpleasant feedback-notice I did NOT say constructive criticism, push through, soothe themselves, advocate for their beliefs and decide how to pick themselves up. After all, it’s not about the failure, it’s how you handle it and get back up again right!?
My kid is an introvert by nature and a practicing sarcastic extrovert by nurture. Sarcasm, albeit one form of a coping mechanism, can also lend itself to making it difficult to read someone or comments that are often taken out of context when one doesn’t know them well enough to get the full impact of the humor. It can also be taken too far when the sarcasm deliverer is not aware of their audience. My child also happens to wear their heart on their sleeve and while they could give zero f*cks about what most people think of them, my kid holds to a very unrealistic set of standards and high expectations. The result of this is when something does not pass muster; the letdown comes in the form of emotional fallout. So in essence, whether it’s anger, resentment, disappointment, sadness or even joy and happiness, instead of reveling or getting fiery to fix it, for better or worse and taking after their mother, the tears start to roll. All of the above creates is a kid who has a passion to work hard and play hard, a sense of fairness that is only appreciated by heightened rule followers, self directs and corrects most of the time, sarcasm that bleeds out of their being as a way to process things or balance the hard with the goofy, self-deprecation to the max when falling short of their own goals and sometimes has a harder time seeing the big picture. Thus the bubble they live in.
Enter, playing a team sport.
My kid is serious when it comes to sports, err actually with EVERYTHING really. Well with that hint of sarcasm right, in that they have a high set of standards and goals of what they wants out of the season. You can see the bubble right?? There is also love for the team, teammates and the camaraderie but the introvert doesn’t come out of the bubble readily so my child doesn’t always show this in the same manner as others. Fast forward to game time. Not playing well, many mistakes made, feeling like your letting your team down, and was disappointed and eager to correct. However, coach sat my kid out. With NO explanation. Enter, the kid in the bubble of high standards, now feeling punished and saddened about not playing well, the waterworks ensued. For coach, crying equated to no further play for the day. After all, “there is no crying in baseball” right?
My heart was breaking watching this unfold.
After the game, the unpleasant, non-constructive feedback: “wasn’t playing like a team player during the games”, SELFISH crying when benched “just because they were not in”.
Yep. Insert mama bear going slightly BANANAS. We, as parents, are instructed not to approach a coach about an issue until your child has already attempted to solution on their own directly with their coach. I can respect that but it is F*CKING HARD. I also knew there was a grain of truth along with being misunderstood in the coach’s words and I definitely was not impressed by the destructive method of delivery. Knee-jerk reaction of child: I want to go home and quit. NOT happening. Not an option and we don’t quit just because something gets hard. This is never-ending in the game of life, you need to learn how to buckle down and push through. We expect a lot of ourselves which in turn makes us expect a lot from others. Being emotional does NOT mean you are selfish. Communication, understanding and ownership need to be had. A conversation had to happen if my child was going to move forward.
My kid spent time writing out thoughts and whittled it down to these pieces (remember the bubble here):
–Owning the “selfish” behavior because they WERE disappointed they weren’t playing, they WERE emotional which unintentionally distracted teammates therefore being unable to fully support them in that moment. Yes, mental toughness needed.
–Advocating. My athlete needed the examples of what coach saw that equated to “not playing like a team player”. They needed coaching in the moment or immediately after the game to learn, especially if it was going to result in taking a beat. This would have allowed time to process and potentially avoid the emotion.
MY CHILD asked coach to talk. MY CHILD needed to clear the air. Suffice it to say, the talk did not go well. My kid felt unheard and was actually made to feel worse about the selfishness, their character, judged on body language and accused of not wanting to be there. It took a lot to go and have that talk. Owning the perceived selfishness and acknowledged needing to get mentally tough. That is big for young teenagers. The rest of the destructive criticism we will choose to let go off. But man, did I ever want to fix this, knew I could not and more importantly should not. In the end, they need to figure it out for themselves. We talked coping strategies, no expectations of play, truly only being there to support your teammates no matter what. But how? My kid takes pride in being genuine and felt pretending to be anything other than the sum of their feelings would be disingenuous. We talked about choosing your mindset and even if that meant pretending a bit, that the genuine feeling would follow. Just grab a hold of the energy in the room.
In the moments that came after all of this, I was afforded the opportunity to see my kid in the most carefree state I think I have ever seen. Burst the bubble and let go. Rallying, smiling, cheering and encouraging. Lighter in every way. By the end of the day, we discerned that when you practice being happy, excited and grateful, eventually you BECOME happy, excited and grateful. So this may not be a season of reaching personal physical improvement goals for my kid, but a season of life lesson mental toughness goals may just prove to be worth every penny. I am so proud, always Rise. And for that, I am ever so thankful.