Thursday, September 10, 2015

Play Ball!

Life Before and After Sports

After sitting quietly on the sidelines for close to two years, our cozy family time at home came to an end when my daughter was released from all her medical restrictions, caught up with her high school credits and on track to graduate, I knew our lives would change and go back to the hustle and bustle of full time sports schedule with both kids in high school.

My son, a freshman in high school, made the freshmen baseball team while my daughter was invited back by her coach during her second semester, and after nine practices in nearly two years, she made the softball team as a floater for Varsity and JV.  She also plays a leading role in her high school choir and travels with them for competition, camps, and performances. Between high school life and church, there is little time to eat, rest, sleep, and absolutely no leisure time.

Our family time is precious and valuable to our family. We would start mornings on our own. We use to grab breakfast as we got ready. We managed to yell out an "I love you" before everyone heads out the door. During the day, we would sent or receive a loving text, then we would all gather for dinner and take part of our family conversation.

We share our lives and love. We absolutely loved watching movies and eating pop-corn on a Saturday night; yes, my teenage children enjoyed spending their Saturday nights with us! Then, attending/serving church on Wednesday's and Sunday's has been a family thing, and recently Sunday evenings as well.

But now, we have traded all that family time and routine for frozen waffles, a two part dinner (my husband and I have dinner when we get home from work, then the kids have dinner when they get home from practice, after 7 PM), no movies, no pop-corn, missed church time, freezing evenings in the park-wrapped in blankets as we cheer for our kids as they take the field.

We grab leftovers from the refrigerator or a burger from the value menu. We sneak food into the fields and eat dinner on the run. We pull clothes from the hamper and hope a little of Febreze will do the job, or we wear an almost dry shirt. Most of the time, I am setting alarms to go off at 2 o'clock in the morning to throw laundry from washer to dryer, then wake an hour earlier to set another load.

Our beds are never made. Our floors are seldom mopped. Our dishes consist of paper plates and baggies for those meals on the go. In the mornings, we snooze one more time...

Even though our days are shorter and we don't have time to watch The Walking Dead, my kid's memories are being filled with what they love to do; playing ball, singing, spending time with high school friends and activities. The best part of it all, is that we are right there with them, waiting for them to get off of practice, even if it runs an hour late, watching their games, supporting them, attending those parent meetings that everyone wants to avoid but know they are necessary for the success of the organization, selling tickets, raising money, putting in some elbow grease and extra work to pay for it all, taking kids, picking them up, talking about the game: "I AM proud of you."

I love my kids and I support them in their pursuits, as long as they are using their God given gifts and talents to honor our God.

It Wasn't Always Very Nice

Once upon a time, playing had become work for them. We said we were supportive, but we just added a layer of stress, a thick one at that. Even if our kids played in great, disciplined teams, they played with a heavy load on their shoulders to please my husband and I.

We thought we were being good, strict, parents, but it had the opposite effect on their performance. They worked so hard to get a hit, or catch that easy pop-up that they missed golden opportunities. The rides home were the worst as we pointed and picked on every error, every strike, every. single. time. It was like their mistakes were more important to point out rather than the times they got on base, or the beautiful throws they had.

We became their 24 hours a day, 7 days a week coaches. They couldn't get away from it. If they made a mistake, not only would they hear from their coaches, but they would hear it from us, over and over. So, when my daughter became ill, then her surgery, then recovery time, and she was restricted for all physical activities, we missed seeing her out on the field.

We had so much regret when we realized how lucky we had been for those years she was playing. We realized we had taken her, her brother and their playing for granted. It was not until then that we made a decision to be supporting, loving, parents at all times. Win or lose. Errors or perfect game. We realized that when they make mistakes or strike out, they have to face their coaches, peers, and teammates. The last thing they need is to feel that they have to face us after the game as well.

When our kids have bad games, we encourage them. When they have good games, we praise them. We no longer act as coaches. We no longer act like bully parents. We no longer criticize them or any of their teammates; who knows how many of their teammates still go home with bully parents. The W is no longer the reason for our involvement, but rather the embracing of our children, the team, the development of a well-rounded child, and the gift that they have been given by God.

Don't get me wrong. We are still very competitive, but we are no longer ruthless. In fact, my husband still has a hard time with losing, or a "barley" win. I joke that he still rolls his eyes when I say "poor baby" to describe a player who is struggling (when in the past I would say "they suck"). Those players who struggle still have feelings, they are someones kid, and they certainly don't want to be called names - that can be YOUR kid. In the blink of an eye, everything can change; it did for us.  

We have learned that behind every child, struggling athlete or super star, there are feelings that need to be nurtured and strengthened. Behind every player are families that struggle with acceptance, addictions, rejection, absent parents, abuse, neglect, over-worked, over-sheduled, extreme expectations, no expectations, and the list goes on and on. They all have a desire and a need to be accepted and loved, no matter what.

My Prayer

I pray for every kid on the team. I even pray for the kids on the opposite team. I pray that the team that God sees fit to win, win. I pray for no injuries on either team. I pray for a fair called game. And most of all, I pray that my children go out with the confidence of humility, knowing that they play because God has given them a set of skills, gifts, and talents to play, and that even though they may not be the best at what they are doing, they can achieve huge athletic success through Jesus Christ - who makes everything possible.