When this weekend began, I was not sure what I was going to end up writing about for my weekly blog. There are quite a few images and thoughts in my head. I participated in a “virtual” worldwide race. I was the only protestant at a workshop that my Catholic mother-in-law had invited me to, and ended up jotting down in my blog ideas notepad: Do I have tinnitus because I was a Rainbow Girl (the speaker had stated that sometimes the demonic aftereffects of being a Rainbow Girl manifested themselves in auditory ways)? The image that is begging to be written about is my son’s body language when he was not played at all in his Pop Warner football game after the first 10 plays of the first quarter.
This year is Wayne Kevin’s first year playing Pop Warner football. He has played two seasons of YMCA flag football, but tackle football is an entirely different activity. He turned a deaf ear to his father’s reminders all summer long to improve his conditioning. This was nowhere more evident than the first times he ran laps with team, finishing almost a full lap behind everyone. In addition, at just over 90 pounds, he is one of the smallest boys on a team whose weight range is 90-120 pounds. He has overcome some of that beginning-of-the-season stuff, and the fact that many of these kids appear to have played together for years, to the point that he doesn’t always finish last in the laps, and he has had what even his choosy father called “good practices” recently. On the way home from practice Thursday night, he was bubbling with excitement because he had been told he would be on “first defense.”
He played the first few series of the game (Pop Warner requires every player to be played a minimum number of plays (ten, I think)). I was late to the game after attending the workshop with Barb, so I missed the big debut. But after those series, nothing. He ran out a few times when “first defense” was called, but was sent back to the sidelines. I guess the coaches had decided to get his minimum plays out of the way first and have that done with. I heard him bring it up to the Team Mom, and she tried to make him feel better, saying “well you were in the first plays.” He brought it up to me, and I said the same unhelpful thing. Let’s just say I was relieved to have to leave the game a few minutes early to pick Tenley up from dance and leave the post-game processing to my husband.
Wayne’s team won 20-0. There was not much doubt, by the fourth quarter, that his team was going to win. He would have loved to have been used for a play or two that last quarter. And for Wayne, part of the reason it matters is that the opponent team is full of kids from his middle school. He is proud his team has beaten them all three times the two have played, but he knows he is going to get some ribbing for his lack of playing time.
Neither my husband nor I are insiders in this group. We have been the most unhelicopter-y of parents pertaining to playing time. We know he is not one of the most proficient players; we know he started out the season slow. We haven’t brought the topic up to the coaches. But, darn, it’s hard to see your kid dejected, to see all of that enthusiasm and team pride slipping away.
I know that kids (and adults) learn from adversity. I remember how awful my first experience was at Junior Gardeners camp, how I could have vowed never to go back, but instead announcing when I got in the car, “I am going back next year and I am going to make it good.” I went to the same camp for years after that and had great experiences. I find it so hard as a parent to sit back and let that determination percolate in my children. When I talked to Wayne later in the day on Saturday, I went down that same “at least you played the first few series” road (when will I ever learn?). Over the weekend, I kept being tempted to send him emails letting him know I believed in him, to bring up the subject again, to invasively force some determination into his 11 year old psyche.
I can’t do that. It’s up to him.
When Tenley was in 4th grade, she had just switched schools and was having a hard time. I wrote her 3rd grade teacher, who had always been helpful, about what “we” would have to do about her anxiety. Mrs. Hudgins immediately wrote back, telling me to re-read what I had said. For Tenley to master her anxiety, there needed to be less “we” and more “she.”
I read a quote this week that resonated with me: To be is to fly the flag of one’s own shadow (by Godfrey Reggio). The older both of my kids get, the less control I have about who they will be or how they will embrace their strong parts and their weak parts.