Jealousy

Have you ever been jealous of someone else?

It’s a rhetorical question. Everyone experiences jealousy at some point. My oldest’s thinking on his athletic capabilities is being challenged this year in new ways. Where he once was confident, he’s now unsure. Who he is, if he isn’t strong athletically is depressing him, and his outlook for what the future holds. As a parent it is heartbreaking and scary to watch (how can I support him best? Get him out of this funk? Help him see he is way more than what he’s athletically capable of).

After a game, he got in the car and said, “I suck.” He proceeded to talk and talk. He is normally not much of a talker, so the fact that he was talking let me know he needed to. We got home and sat in the car talking for almost another hour. It came up that not only was he feeling bad about himself, but also envious of others — a peer, in particular, who is gifted athletically without having to put much effort in. “This isn’t even the sport he loves, and he’s a starter every game.” I attempted to help him see things from another point of view, but he wasn’t fully listening. He had dug in on the situation being dark and hopeless for him. I worried going to bed that night — would he be okay?

The next morning, after a good nights sleep, he came out to where I was. I shared I’d like to talk with him a little more whenever he was ready. I thought he’d delay the conversation but asked for a minute and then asked what I wanted to talk about. First I asked him if he was feeling any better and he said he was. Phew! I said, “ There’s two points I didn’t make last night, that I think are important. One, things feel really intense right now. You’re 15, you’re going through puberty, you’re still growing, trying new things, and everything can feel really intense,” he nodded in agreement, I continued, “things will get better. If I could go back to my 15 year-old self, I would tell her to be a lot kinder and to not take things so seriously. The second thing I want to talk about is jealousy. We all experience it. You need to understand that while you’re jealous of others, others are jealous of you — for reasons that are out of your control — you’re tall, math comes easily to you, you don’t want for anything. You may think ‘that’s crazy, no one would be jealous of me’, but I’m telling you it’s the truth. Remember that. Your friend can’t help he’s athletically talented. That has more to do with the genes he was given from his parents than anything else. He can’t help that. Just like you can’t help that you’re tall, or good at math, right?” He nodded. “That’s all,” I concluded. “Thanks, mom,” he said. Then we sat and watched a game together on TV. He seemed calmer and more at peace. I hope that is the case.

Has your child experienced jealousy? How have you helped them come to terms or work through it?

Winning and Losing

How do you handle wins and losses?

Our oldest dressed for his team’s game and watched as they went up by many points. Early in the second half it looked like a potential blowout. But the other team kept playing, our team made mistakes, confidences got shaken, and what should have been a blow out ended up with the opposition winning soundly. It was a tough night.

The next morning after a good nights sleep washed most of the sting of the loss away, my son and I talked about the game. “Any thoughts on yesterday’s game?” I asked. He was quiet for a few moments. I couldn’t tell if he hadn’t heard me or was thinking about his answer. Just as I was going to ask another question he replied. “You know, I’ve been thinking about what my soccer coach in elementary school used to ask us after a loss — did they win, or did we lose? — I think we lost yesterday.” Whoa, I thought, that was profound. He’s really thinking about this at a deeper level, and processing what happened. I agreed with him on them losing. He talked for a few minutes on his view of why the loss occurred and what he’d fix if given the chance (plays he’d run, positions he’d have switched out to keep everyone with enough energy to play their best, etc.). He talked like a mature adult, with great leadership potential. I was both a little surprised and very impressed. I was reminded he is 15, a young man, stepping out of the shadow of his younger self. Gulp! Time truly is going fast.

Winning feels good. Losing doesn’t, but you learn so much more when things don’t go as you hoped or planned. You learn about yourself – what you’d do differently and improve the next time, and others – what’s within your control (not much) and what isn’t — and how to digest the pain in a way that helps you process the situation and moves you toward positive personal growth.

How do you help your child when they lose? How are you helping them see the upside of not winning, and the opportunity for growth?

Fundraising

What has your child had to fundraise for?

I sold cookies, candy bars, a game of Monopoly based on our local town, and wrapping paper to fundraise growing up. I asked for sponsorship in walks, runs, and other physical feats to raise money to fund trips (camp, mission trips, school outing), or a good cause (awareness, research, prevention). While all things needed the money I never felt comfortable doing it (particularly when I sold things no one wanted, like the Monopoly game based on my local town).

Fast forward to present day, my son has been asked to raise money for his sport. The funding will help pay for equipment, uniforms and other things the staff and team need. They are asking each child to send out an email to 20 people they know (family and friends) asking for financial support. In normal times I would most likely be okay with this, however, with COVID and how it has impacted so many, not to mention what seems like non-stop natural disasters (flood, fire, hurricane, etc.) everywhere you look, it doesn’t feel right. I get the program needs the money. I also get that the staff are underpaid and don’t have the extra money to cover (nor would I expect them to) the costs to fund the sports program adequately. My son and I discussed.

“You know you’re supposed to be asking others for money for the team?,” I asked. “Really? No one said anything,” he shared. I explained that the parents had received several notices and that he had to set up a page and it tracked how many people they sent the solicitation out to (by # of unique emails, and by unique donation). There were prizes he could win if enough individual people donated. I then shared my discomfort with him doing this due to COVID, and so many hurting. His father and I could make a donation to hopefully cover what was needed from him. He said he agreed. I’m sure he felt relieved he wouldn’t have to ask others for money as well.

Raising money is something we all do to help fund the underfunded or good causes. It can be uncomfortable but rewarding when we see positive progress, or outcomes. Did our son miss out on an opportunity to learn the pros and cons of fundraising? In this scenario, yes. But he has fundraised before selling pumpkins, and Christmas trees, so he knows what goes into raising money including hard labor, selling a product, and helping give the customer good service so he increases his chances of a return (happy) customer. He’s even shared that it felt like they really earned the money when they raised it this way.

Solicitation for fundraising is an easier way to bring in money for a cause, but can also be oh, so uncomfortable. Am I missing out on an opportunity for my son to learn life lessons by not having him participate, possibly. But our hope is that he’ll be on the team in future years and we can revisit fundraising this way hen it feels more appropriate (more people are doing financially better).

How does your family handle fundraising requests? How do you handle any discomfort with asking or being asked?

Needs, Wants, and Priorities

When did your child last tell you they had a need that really wasn’t one?

My oldest loves sports, and has been excited to start training for the upcoming Fall season with his team in advance of school starting. He also is in Scouts and has had a outing planned that overlapped with practice. You can imagine what happened.

Because of COVID and the uncertainty of what play would be allowed and when, there was little communication to the families around practice and when it would take place. My son’s troop had booked their Summer trip in the Spring allowing for everyone to get vaccinated before the trip. The troop was very successful in 2020 selling pumpkins and Christmas trees, so they could afford to fly to their destination (which is a big deal. They’ve always driven before). My son was excited for the trip, but hated that it would overlap with his practice. “I’m letting my team down,” he said one evening. “Would you feel like another team member was letting the team down if they went on a scheduled trip and couldn’t go to practice?” I asked. “Yes, I would,” he said, paused then responded, “okay, no I wouldn’t.” He grimaced (he really doesn’t like it when my husband or I are right, or make a good point). 😊

As the trip neared, his desire to not let his team down (real or perceived) amplified. As the departure date neared following one practice he expressed his angst. “I’m just starting to get the rust off and playing good again. I want to stay for the entire practice before I leave but I can’t because the troop has to get to the airport four hours before the flight leaves. It’s ridiculous.” I asked, “have you talked to the Scout Master to see if we can bring you to the airport to meet them?” “I did,” he said, “but I got a ‘why don’t you just leave practice early’ response.” He continued. “I mean, the Scout Master just doesn’t get it. I have needs. I need to practice and be with my team, why can’t he think about my needs?” I had to suppress a chuckle. I gave him a minute to calm down. “You know the Scout Master has to coordinate everything for all you kids. There are a lot of logistics involved and if he starts bending to various needs it makes his job a whole lot harder. I get that you don’t want to miss practice, but your needs don’t go in front of what’s best for the troop. Everyone worked hard to go, practice will be there. You’ll get caught up. You should be looking forward to this. You were until practice started.” He sighed, “yea, l guess you’re right.” We drove in silence the rest of the way home.

Your wants and needs can feel intense when you’re a teen. You want your wants or needs met now, not later. Later is forever away. Helping our son understand true priorities and what matters is the opportunity my husband and I found in this experience. Knowing what is truly important, will have the greater impact (on you and others), and making choices/decisions you feel good about down the road.

Before my son left I tried to help him reframe the situation. “You won’t remember every practice, they’ll blend together, but you will remember taking this trip. It’s something special and will be memorable.” He shook his head in agreement. It also helped that he happened to twist his ankle in practice the day he had to leave early to catch his flight, and was going to need to rest it for a few days (coincidence or fate?) . 😊

What does your kid see as a need you disagree with? How are you helping them figure out what are their true priorities?

I’ll be away next week to spend time with friends and family for Labor Day and will be back in September.

Can We Talk About It?

When your child asks you for something (they need, want, etc.) what do you do?

When my boys need something (school supplies, clothes) it’s pretty easy. For non-essentials, I typically weigh the pros and cons, we discuss as a family if pricey (can we afford, is this a good use of our money—often turns into financial discussions/teaching moments with kids, etc.), and then we decide.

My oldest found a sports camp he wants to go to. It’s a single-day camp and pricey (not crazy pricey, but enough to make you at least weigh the pros and the cons). I knew how much he wants to go to the camp. My husband and I discussed the cost and agreed we’d let him go. By the time my husband and I connected on this we were full into our workdays and my son school, so I decided to text him to share the good news , he could go to camp but with some conditions. “Your father and I discussed and you can go to the camp. In return I’ll take a daily hug, you need to make sure all the dishes are done before you go to bed, and lessen the sass towards mom.” I said all of this ending with a smiley face 😊 to let my son know I was serious, but also that it was coming from a place of love.

I expected his response to be “great” or “thanks,” instead he responded with the following in rapid fire: are you sure? I can pay for it? Can we talk about this before you sign me up? Was my son ‘adulting’ on me? I texted him back, “We can cover — is hugging me really that bad? 😊 We’ll discuss tonight before we register you.” He responded “Thanks.” It seemed like he was being very pragmatic and he got me thinking. Does he not want to go? Is there something about the camp that worries him? What’s prompting this desire to part with money? My son rarely spends money, he’s always saving it which made me think am I missing an opportunity for my son to feel good about spending his hard earn money in a way that feels good to him?

That night we talked about it. My husband and I explained that we would cover the cost for this camp, but other specialty camps he might want to do over the summer he could cover. My son was excited, and we felt like we’d found a happy medium. Reflecting on the situation I realize my son is getting closer to adulthood daily and I need to start leaning into that more (vs holding onto the vision of him being young and more dependent). It may be uncomfortable for me, but the more I practice it the easier it will become.

How are you helping your child make money choices? How are you helping them prepare to be independent?

Getting Caught Up in the Moment

Did you play sports growing up? Do you recall getting caught up in the action, whether you were playing or watching your team?

My son’s soccer team was recently invited to watch the local high school play in the state tournament. My son was excited to sit with his teammates and watch the teams play (a special bonus was that their coach was one of the coaches for the high school team playing). The kids quickly got caught up in the action. It was fun to see them interact, cheering on the team, doing the wave (without any care that no one else was doing it) and talking in their own team lingo as they observed the game. They also got caught up in the nastier side of sports, booing and finding ways to take digs at the opposition.

I got caught up in the action as well. It was a very aggressive and physical game. At one point, two players collided, resulting in one (from the team we were cheering for) bleeding from the head. When the referees proceeded not to issue a yellow card for the incident, I too got caught up in the moment. “When are you going to card #10, ref? This is ridiculous!” I yelled. My son was a little taken aback. One, because I had been relatively quiet up until this point, and two, I clearly reacted as though a true injustice had been done and either the ref was blind or incompetent. His reaction brought me out of the moment. I needed that. The ref’s job is hard enough, they didn’t need me yelling at them. I didn’t want my son thinking my behavior was right either. (On a side note, I don’t know how refs do it. I would sink into the ground if people were telling me how terrible I was while I was performing at my job. I don’t envy them, but do respect them, no matter how frustrating it can be when you see a missed call.).

The game was close right up to the end. The team my son was cheering for won in dramatic action. He was in heaven. He and his teammates celebrated and went off to find their coach to congratulate him. It was one of those moments where you recognize it’s special. It doesn’t happen often and you need to just enjoy it. I couldn’t help getting caught up in my son’s moment. It was pure joy.

How do you get caught up in special moments when they happen?

 

 

 

Soccer Mom

Did your parent(s) ever embarrass you as a child?

Of course they did, right?  It’s a rite of passage for most parents. While I’ve been open with my boys that mom and dad will likely embarrass them from time to time, it will never be intentionally done. They know they can call us on it, and we (my husband and I) have to own it, and try to make it right (e.g. don’t do it again).  What I didn’t anticipate was where I’d have the most trouble not being a repeat offender — at the soccer field.

I am not one of those parents who yells at the kids or the refs and tries to correct them. Instead I’m guilty of calling a play-by-play with what the kids are doing on the field, like it’s some how going to help the outcome of the game. “Nice pass to Jake.” “Way to block it, Luke.” “Take it away, Caleb. You’ve got this.” But one time I went a little too far. My son was struggling in a game, and instead of doing what the coach was telling him, he got angry and started to talk back, “I’m doing what you told me!” “What am I doing wrong?” I didn’t like the way he was talking to the coach, and instead of letting the coach handle it (like I should have) I said, “Why don’t you channel your anger back into the game, and get more focused?” My son was clearly beside himself with embarrassment grunted and gave me a “zip it” hand gesture (moving his fingers across his mouth). When it was half-time he came over to the sidelines with his teammates, and knowing I was standing nearby, loudly said, “I don’t ever want you to come to a game again!”

He had a point. I would have hated it if my parents had done the same thing to me. I wanted to be supportive and encouraging (that’s what we need at any age), not shame him in front of his peers. That’s the last thing I wanted to do. If I wanted to have this discussion with him, I should have done it in private. I told him as much after the game.  “I was wrong. Not what I said, but where I said it. I should have said it away from everyone being able to hear and I’m sorry.”  He still wasn’t happy, but he got it. I owned my part in what happened, and haven’t made a similar comment (at least in front of his peers) since.

I think I rationalize my broadcasting tendencies (which are now strictly the positive play-by-plays) as wanting to show I’m interested and vested (e.g. my son knows I care about what he’s doing), and that somehow my encouragement will help the team (know that they are supported and care). Not to worry, I’m aware that my ‘cheering’ likely isn’t doing much, if any, good, and am working to be a more subdued parent. Outside of walking away from the game and distracting myself, I haven’t come up with a lot of best practices for how to do this.  Anyone have any suggestions to share?

I know my son realizes I mean well, and that I’m his biggest (along with his dad) fan, but I need to model for him how you support someone without strings attached (e.g. I support you even when you’re struggling…especially when you’re struggling), encourage without having to voice my praise (clapping or a yahoo is fine during the game, any points I want to make can be saved for the car ride home). And maybe that’s it…a desire to share feedback real-time, versus seeing how things play out and providing more constructive input at a later time. It’s not easy. It takes practice. I’ve got some work to do.

Are there any other rowdy parents like me out there (willing to admit it)? Do you have a hard time being quiet and calm while watching your child participate in a competitive activity?

March Madness and its Shining Moments

March Madness is in full swing with the NCAA basketball tournament starting this week. I couldn’t help but be taken in by the story of R.J. Hunter making the 3-point shot to win the game for Georgia State. It was what those of us who enjoy watching sports love–the underdog coming up with a win. What made the win that much more special was that R.J. is the son of Georgia State’s head coach, Ron Hunter.

Ron Hunter summed up the experience best in an article by Dan Wolken in USA Today, It’s unbelievable. I wish every dad in America could have that opportunity, what I just experienced with my son.”

Have you had a Ron/R.J. moment? Maybe not on the same scale or stage, but just as memorable? I can remember winning a race in a swim meet by tenths of a second with my parents looking on. I felt great about my accomplishment, but really appreciated being able to share it with my family. It made it that much more real. It’s a good memory we all remember. There were other triumphant moments too that weren’t sports-related–speaking in public for the first time (getting through it, and not passing out was a plus), and winning an unexpected award in a large setting (was both exciting and humbling). My parents being there to witness these events made them that much more special.

I look forward to experiencing my children’s ‘moment in the sun’. It might not be during a marquee game or event, but it will be their moment, our moment, and it will be something we’ll share for the rest of our lives.

What memorable moment have you shared with your child? What shining moment(s) have you experienced?

Fantasy Football

I hold my parents responsible for my love of sports. We lived in Atlanta when the Falcons appeared to be Super Bowl bound in the late ‘70s.  During the season our house was filled with lots of cheering and shouting on Sunday afternoons. The Falcons made the playoffs in 1981 and in order to advance they needed to beat the Dallas Cowboys. I was convinced the Falcons would win. Not because I knew that much about football, or the team at the time, but because I still believed anything was possible, whether it was realistic or not. I was a child.

My parents went to the Falcons Cowboys playoff game while my sisters and I watched the game on TV with a sitter. The Falcons led most of the game. I knew they were going to win. I could visualize it—the team winning, my parent’s elation that wouldn’t end until after our Super Bowl victory. Except that’s not what happened.  The Cowboys came from behind to win.  I was devastated.  How could the Falcons lose?  This wasn’t supposed to happen.  When it became clear there was no chance the Falcons would make a comeback, I ran to my room, slammed the door, jumped on my bed and promptly began to cry. I cried for the Falcons, I cried for my parents, and others experiencing the same pain I was.  But mostly I cried for the fantasy that hadn’t become a reality.

I took a break from watching football after that. It was too painful. I didn’t need a reminder that sometimes dreams don’t come true. Several years later, my father convinced me to watch a college football game with him. I almost immediately regained the love I had for watching the sport. At first I resisted getting behind one team, but seeing my Dad get behind the University of Miami, where he’d gone to school, win-or-lose I quickly followed. I loved it when it was clear Miami was in control and a victory certain, and had to walk away when things started going in favor of the opposing team. Whether I thought I was a jinx on the team, or allowing myself to have hope that things would improve during my absence, I can’t quite say. Trying to stay and experience the pain of watching my team lose was too great.  I couldn’t do it. My father would often remind me, “it’s only a game,” when he would see how upset or frustrated I was getting. Logically I knew he was right, but it really bothered me that he seemed at peace with it, and I was having all these intense emotions.

While I didn’t set out to teach my children to love sports, I’m afraid I’ve taken them a good distance down the path. My oldest son watches college football games with my husband and I on occasion and helps us cheer on our alma maters. He isn’t picky about who he roots for mainly cheering for teams because he likes their school colors or their mascot. He can get pretty upset—frustrated, angry and sad—when his team isn’t winning or loses altogether. He reminds me a lot of myself when I was a child. I try to comfort him and talk to him like my dad did with me. “Are you playing in the game?” I ask. “No,” he replies. “Did you practice with the team?” I ask. “No,” he replies. “Is there anything you can do to change what happens in the game?” “No,” he replies. Sometimes this line of questioning calms him down, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s hard to see your child’s heart break. To know their dream might not come true, even if it’s only a game.

Most things are out of our control. As an individual that’s hard. As a parent it can feel even harder. We can only control how we respond to what happens.  I try to empathize with my son and see the game through his eyes—fantasy sprinkled with a dose of real life.   While I’m better equipped emotionally to handle my team losing, I still can’t bring myself to watch and entire game if its clear my team will lose. I’ll turn the channel or walk away. I know it’s only a game, but the pain that teeters in the loss is still too great.

Every time I see the famous Doug Flutie pass and victory over UM I’m reminded of the disappointment I once felt, though thankfully not as intensively as I did back then (the recent UPS ad is a killer to watch every time!).  Maybe it’s the childlike fantasy I still want to believe in, the hope that the dream will come true, even though I have know I have no control over it. I think back to what my dad said and take a deep breath. It’s only a game.