It’s so comfortable to do things that you’re familiar with, isn’t it? It’s easy to hope (read, make) your children have the same experiences you did as a child (or maybe the exact opposite), to dress the way you think he/she should dress, or to become who you think he/she should become. The truth is, though, if we only allow our children to have the experiences we are familiar with, we are holding them back. You can argue with me, pretending that’s not the truth, but it is.
I was a dancer. I have always been a dancer. I remember being exposed to other sports, mostly by my childless-at-the-time, sports-loving aunt, but it was never my thing. One of her favorite stories about me was finally agreeing to go play basketball with her at the end of the court after years of being asked. We walked down there, I stood behind the basketball goal in the grass. She asked what I was doing and I told her I was cheering for her while she played. Yep, that was my experience with basketball and it had nothing to do with the basket or the ball. I remember hating (almost) every single gym activity, except that one unit that was country line dancing. That was something I could be enthusiastic about! For the most part, I was your very typical girly girl. I can honestly say that I don’t think it was from lack of exposure, that’s just who I was.
Given that dance was who I was, I searched high and low for the gymnastic and/or dance studio that had the lowest age minimum for Ella because I just couldn’t wait for her to be part of that world! We landed in a mommy and me gymnastics class. While she had fun and gained coordination skills, I knew we would switch to dance as soon as we could. When we reached the minimum age for dance classes, we did trial classes and a lot of internet research to find the studio that fit us the best. We’ve now just finished up our fourth year there and just signed up for next year’s performing company. Obviously, the dance thing is working out for her and Callie is following in her footsteps.
I could have stopped there. I could have ignored her request to try basketball three years ago, t-ball two years ago, and softball again this year because it was all foreign to me, but I didn’t. Basketball three years ago was, um, interesting. One of my best friends was stuck being a coach with no basketball experience herself. She’s amazing with kids and Google, so she actually did a really nice job. Let me paint the picture for you. Ella was a whole 2 years younger than most of the players and had just that year made the growth chart at the pediatrician, coming in at a whopping 0.6th percentile! These two factors put her at about a head and a half shorter than the next shortest teammate. She didn’t let that stop her. She tried hard and kept up with the running. This was a 3-5 year old team, so of course the baskets were significantly lowered. When you’re a mere 2-feet tall and weigh about 21 pounds, even the lowered baskets and “power” behind each attempt didn’t help much. She put so much effort into each throw that even the opposing coaches started to feel sorry for her so they started lifting her above their heads so she could make a basket! This is no joke, and I really appreciated it. The smiles on her face after making a basket were priceless.
T-ball was a little less eventful. This was a co-ed team, she had grown a little bit, and was a little more coordinated. Overall, it was a good experience. I, on the other hand, hated being outside! Unless it was about 75 and sunny, I was complaining of being too cold, too hot, or too wet. This is why me and dance got along so nicely. We were always in a temperature-controlled, dry environment. I felt ignorant about the game, was uncomfortable in the weather, but loved the experience she was getting and loved watching her do something she enjoyed doing.
This spring, Callie expressed interested in softball. Upon researching, I found that she was too young for the league that our new home was close to. She was disappointed but Ella decided to try again. We are two weeks into practice and she’s doing really well. She’s really enjoying herself and has learned a lot. Her and Callie are both excited to practice throwing, catching, and batting at home almost nightly. Callie will be so ready next year when she’s old enough.
Again, I’m totally outside of my comfort zone. I’m lucky enough to have Ella on the same team as a girl she dances with whose mom is a softball player. I tell her all the secrets of dance life and she’s letting me know what the “cool kids” do for softball (like wear socks up to their knees). Having her on the team with us makes the unknown a little less daunting.
I could have said no. I have that power as MOM. I could have made a million excuses and made myself believe them so I didn’t even feel bad about it, but I didn’t.
I started this post with sports because softball and dance are currently running my life. This is so much bigger than sports, though. This is allowing them to wear dresses or athletic gear, clothes you think are “cool” or clothes they are comfortable in. It’s allowing them to have the birthday party they want, within reason. It’s allowing them to choose their Halloween costume even if it’s not what you imagined. It’s about providing love and support through their college or other after high school journey, even if they aren’t going down the career path YOU feel is right for them. Later in life, it’s about being happy they found love, even if it’s not someone you imagined them being with (obviously as long as they are in a healthy relationship). It’s about supporting their choice to have kids, how many kids, or embracing their decision to have no kids at all.
One of my biggest hopes for my girls is that they become exactly who God intended them to be and that they are confident in that person, even if I have moments of uncomfortableness along the way. Who am I to interfere with God’s plans?
Until next time…
“Being a good parent requires knowing when to push and when to back off, when to help and when to let them make mistakes, and then being strong enough to watch them go.”