Every child has a different personality. And I love how unique each one is. Each one comes with their own amazing qualities and individual struggles.
My son has always been hard on himself. Constantly critiquing himself, blaming himself if things go wrong or people are mean. He has a hesitant personality, more of a realist than a dreamer. As a 4 year old, he would worry about how the parents would be able to get ahold of me if he were going to the neighbor’s to play. He assumed someone was going to steal his little sister if we brought her to the church nursery, and believe me, he never would go. In 1st grade he didn’t want to play basketball because he thought it was too dangerous. Everytime we went to his baseball game, he told me he would probably just strike out. As an eternal optimist, it kills me not knowing how to lift up a born pessimist.
Now I glance over in the passenger seat in the van and have to do a double take…because all of a sudden he’s not as much as a little boy and it shocks me. The past few years, sports have not been easy for him, as he is younger than many in his grade and not the aggressive type. Afer 1 1/2 years of playing basketball for the school, he was feeling defeated. Rarely getting play time his first year (maybe 2-4 minutes a game), saying he was just standing watching the other kids scrimmage at practice waiting for his turn to play, not getting invited onto tournaments for baseball…then again basketball this year. When he overheard 2 of the boys couldn’t make one of the tournaments, and that the coach was possibly going to ask a boy to play that didn’t sign up for basketball this year to take their place (not saying this is true…just what my son was hearing second hand from others on the team), he was devastated. Wondering if he should just quit, saying he was the worst one on the team, the coach didn’t like him, why should he even bother going to practice? It breaks my heart to see my children put the negativity on themselves.
I told him you can’t control other people. All you can control is yourself. You could quit, and I would understand. Or you could push harder. You could take advantage of the little time you do get to play to get better. You get aggressive with all your heart. You make it your mission to prove people wrong, prove yourself wrong.
I tried to quit gymnastics multiple times when fear would paralyze me…my mom always said I could quit, but not because of fear. I remember the beginning of one of our competition seasons on a Division I collegiate team…practicing 4 hours a day on a 4 inch beam, knowing I was a walk on, always the alternate, and the worst one on the team. Knowing I rarely got to compete, knowing once again my fears were holding me back. I went up to my coach after our first intrasquad competition of the year and told him I was going to quit because I didn’t feel like I was good enough to be on the team and wasting everyone’s time. He asked, what is the worst that would happen if I stayed on the team? I would stay strong and in shape throughout my college years and be part of a team that had become my family? While I expected him to agree with me quitting, instead he convinced me to stay. That year, though I never became a consistent competitor, I competed and scored my highest score of a 9.6 at a home university competition on the balance beam. My coach hugged me afterwards and said, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t quit?” I was…because even though I wasn’t the best, I was still on a divisin I team for a reason…I was building so much character and strength, and I had my gymnastics family.
As much as I worry about this boy of mine and his negativity towards himself, I’m slowly seeing a shift in his mindset. I’m slowly seeing him stand up for himself to kids at school. I’m seeing a new side to him on the court. And so when I got a text from my husband this morning saying he scored 4 out of the 12 points in the game (he has never scored in a game before), it brought tears to my eyes.
I don’t expect my kids to have to be the best. I don’t want them doing sports they don’t enjoy. But what I want them to learn is how strong their mind is. It doesn’t matter what others think, say, or do….it’s your decision to control your life. There will always be struggles and failures, but what you do in those times determines who you are and where you will go. I want them to use their disappointments to drive them more towards their goals…not to give up. I want them to be proud of never giving up.