On not being the best…

My kids play many sports—particularly my nine year old. Throughout the year, he participates in soccer, baseball, basketball and Taekwon Do. He’s a busy kid.

As a mom, I have a natural tendency to want my kids to be the best at everything they do. What mom doesn’t want that for her kids? But I recognize that my son–my perfect little athlete—is not perfect. For the most part, he’s a skilled athlete. He’s been playing soccer and baseball for several years now and he’s pretty good at both. And in his Taekwon Do tournaments, he usually brings home a 2nd or 3rd place medal. He’s by no means the best, but he holds his own.

I’m used to seeing sports come fairly easily to my son. I’m used to showing up at a game, confident he’ll get some decent playing time—maybe even play a crucial role.

But this is not what’s happening in basketball. No, in basketball, my son is sitting the bench—a lot. Fortunately, he is not the type to let any of this get to him. Fortunately, he has a pretty good attitude when it comes to being a team player. Fortunately, he has a thick skin. Fortunately, he enthusiastically cheers on his team from the sidelines.

I, on the other hand, am another story.

I watched my son play in five basketball games last weekend… and I noticed something: For the fourth quarter of every game, my son got the shaft. For the fourth quarter of every game, the coach rotated in a handful of his “best” players (which I now lovingly refer to as The Dream Team), none of whom were my son. For the fourth quarter of every game, when the stakes were high, my son wasn’t given a second glance.

I was pissed. I was pissed that my son’s coach was such an unfair jerk.

Eventually, my temper tantrum subsided and my rational side kicked in. With a little help from my husband, I came to realize that my son really isn’t one of the best players on the team. He doesn’t belong in the final quarter of a close game. His coach isn’t being unreasonable. This is a competitive travel league and I can’t expect the coach to just play my son because it’s the nice thing to do.

By the same token, I can’t expect my son to be awesome at everything. Expecting perfection from my children is unrealistic. Expecting perfection of anyone is unrealistic.

Nobody is good at everything….but everybody is good at something.

I often have to remind myself of this fact—and not just when it comes to my kids, either. I have a tendency to beat myself up over not being good enough at this or that. But after wallowing in my flaws for a fair amount of time, I eventually cut myself some slack and accept myself for who I am—the good and the bad. I remind myself that while I may not be awesome in certain areas, I rock in others. Though I often–OFTEN– struggle to see it, I know there is a great deal to be learned from life’s little failures.

I’ve come to realize that sitting the sidelines from time to time—watching and observing, cheering on others, taking stock of our own strengths and weaknesses—is humbling. It reminds us that we will not always be the best; it pushes us to try harder; it keeps our egos in check.

While I want my children to succeed in their every endeavor—be it in sports, school, relationships or whatever—I know it will not happen. Life is a delicate balance of successes and failures.

So my son isn’t the go-to man on his basketball team. Much as it pains me to watch (and it really does pain me), I must continue to see that with each game, he’s learning new skills—be it physical skills or emotional. And an added bonus… he loves it.  How can I argue with that?

It’s better to try something and fail than to never try at all. This is a lesson that my fearless 9yo teaches me on a daily basis.

How do you handle your children’s little failures?

Comments

  1. Neither of my kids are particularly athletic, but my son desires to be and so it bothers me when he can’t keep up with his peers. He’s been excluded from “good” teams to make room for better players (“ringers” as I like to call them) and when he was younger it really bothered him. Now he’s found a sport he likes and that he’s fairly good at. He has decided to focus entirely on this sport so that he can be one of the best. I’m not sure this is the right approach, but it’s what he wants to try and I’m willing to support him. If he fails, we will be there to pick him up and dust him off and try something else. As long as he’s having fun, I’m having fun.

    • Jen,
      It’s so hard to know what’s the right thing and what’s the wrong thing. For what it’s worth, I think your approach is a good one. At some point, I think they all find that thing that they’re good at and they love. But when they’re young, where’s the harm in letting them try a bunch of different things. And as long as he’s having fun, what’s more important than that?

  2. That is great that your son still loves it despite it not being his best sport. You are raising a great little guy (but you probably already know that).

  3. I think this is a universal struggle! My kids are not yet at the age where they can play competitive sports, but I think this can be applied to SO many areas of life. I have to remind my children (and myself!) repeatedly in this circumstance that I can boast in my weakness because Christ’s power is made perfect in it! (2 Corinthians 12) Every time an imperfection is brought to the surface, it is an opportunity for me to point my children to the Lord- and their identities in Him. Still- this is much easier in theory than in practice! :)

    • You’re right, it is so much easier in theory than practice. But we have to try to see the beauty in imperfection.

  4. LOVE LOVE LOVE the photos! This is a great lesson for us all. I had similar feelings this summer when my son played his first competitive league. It’s hard when it moves from everyone gets a turn to we need to win. I love how you put it and your hubby sounds like a good one to be next to during games. :)

    • Thanks for the compliment on the photos. Coming from you, that means a lot!

      My husband is more pragmatic when it comes to our kids’ sports. I tend to be emotional, for better or worse.

  5. This was such a good post. I could relate so much because my son is one of the worst kids on his soccer team and I fought with myself- did I protect him and advocate or let him struggle through it on his own?

    Found you through the blop hop!

    • I have that internal fight with myself all the time — make this decision for him or let him fight his own. It’s always a struggle.

      Thanks for stopping by, Julie!

  6. It is much easier once your child finds something at which he excels. My kids are athletic, and are top players on their soccer and cross country teams. I encourage them to play basketball, though, not because they are good at it, but because they are not. They go to tryouts and make the “C” team every time. And I am so glad. They get to experience NOT being good at a sport yet still have fun. Builds character and some humbleness.

    • I love the way you put it, Christine and I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s very hard for parents to see it this way. It is hard to see our kids not be awesome at something. But it truly does build character.

  7. I hope as they get older, my boys get the chance to be both the star player and the second stringer. They are both important. :)

    My brother is one of those guys who was just a natural star at every sport he tried, from peewees on up to Varsity sports. He finally found a sport that wasn’t easy for him – golf – and he wouldn’t give up on it because the challenge drew him in.

    I was always the second-stringer type, and had to work hard to ever get that chance in the spotlight. I learned from both. :)

    Sounds like your boys are pretty lucky. ;)

    • Robin,
      I love your point about letting kids experience both sides. It’s nice to feel good about some things, but it’s important to learn how to deal with not being so good at other things.

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