Life’s Tough, Wear a Cup

So I was at my daughter’s softball game this morning and I’ve come to a conclusion and it’s not just that watching 9 years play softball is akin to watching paint dry. I’ve reached the realization that parents are lying to their kids. I am not, nor will I ever be, a parent who sugar coats things. I know it’s hard for you dear readers to imagine, but I don’t believe in lying to my kids. Yes, there are some teeny white lies we tell to protect them like “no there are no vegetables ground up in this meatloaf, why ever would you think that?” , but I do believe in being honest about their abilities, even if it means their feelings are going to get hurt.
Over the last 8 years as a “sports mom”, I’ve witnessed other parents and their reaction to their kids playing and I realize that there are not too many parent subscribing to this same policy. And that terrifies me. Because I am realizing that soon in the future we are going to have a whole generation of kids looking for praise when none is warranted. We’re going to have a lot of young adults content with mediocre work and no incentive to strive to do better. Everyone is going to want their participation trophy just for putting on a uniform and showing up.
Ok just so we are clear, I’m not “that parent”; the one screaming at their kid the whole game, vein bulging out of their neck. That’s just crazy and plain rude. First of all, you’re embarrassing your kid. Secondly, you’re undermining the coaches and third of all, you look like an ass. It’s just a game after all.
That not to say that I’m not pacing and chewing my nails, praying my kid doesn’t mess up. I think about yelling at my kid in my head sometimes, too. “Oh my GOD, you gotta cover second!” went through my head about ten times this morning. I may have even muttered it into my coffee cup a few times. But, I’m not going to start screaming it on the field. I feel that it is up to the coaches to tell my kid what she did wrong.
Except, today the coaches weren’t telling anyone what they did wrong. Instead, they were applauding every abysmal effort. A ball rolled right past my daughter while she made figure eights in the dirt with her shoe and they just clapped and said “you’ll get it next time!” Meanwhile, I wanted to scream, “wake the hell up out there shortstop!” (But I bit my tongue) One girl stood at the plate while three perfectly good strikes came right down the middle and she didn’t even swing. Everyone clapped for her and I’m wondering WHY? Well, I’ll tell you why. We have to clap because we can’t make anyone feel bad. We have to clap because we don’t want that girl to go home and cry in her pillow. We have to clap because God forbid, the girl realizes she has to try harder or do something else.
I know I sound like a hard ass. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the girl to cry or feel bad, either. What I want all the kids to do is try their best, realize their full potential and LEARN. We don’t learn from our mistakes if nobody points them out. We don’t learn that we are putting up a subpar performance if someone constantly tells us that we did a good job, even if we didn’t. We don’t learn that maybe we are not as good as we think we are unless someone tells us we can do better.
I don’t blame the coaches either. They have to walk that fine line between pointing out what the kids are doing wrong and appeasing the parents. They don’t need a disgruntled parent keying their car. A good number of these parents want to tell their child, “you did great”, “there are no winners or losers” and other platitudes like that. Wrong! There are winners, there are losers! The sooner we realize it, the better chance we have to be one of those winners.
Not every one is a natural athlete. There are some kids that aren’t going to be good at softball and baseball or soccer. There are kids who are going to stink at basketball or karate or dance. Guess what? They don’t need to be good at those things! They can try other things! There’s kids that can’t swing a bat to save their life, but they are awesome at playing the piano or drawing or can hack into their teacher’s computer and change their grades. It takes all kinds.
My son has been an athlete for many years. A few years ago he brought home a musical instrument (and I can’t even remember what it was because I’m trying to block that portion of my life out of my memory). He was TERRIBLE. But people (like his teacher and my mother in law) lied to him and told him he was good and had potential. The only potential he had was to make our dog run from him in fear. Fortunately, he lost interest in the instrument (which often happens when you’re no good at something) and that went by the wayside. And I was glad, not only that I didn’t have to wear earplugs any more, but that he experienced failing at something, not being good at something. It’s an important lesson to learn. You will NOT be good at everything. You will fail. Practice makes perfect. There are losers and winners. You may suck at stuff. There are no participation trophies in real life. And most importantly, life’s tough, wear a cup.

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