The Final Countdown

My Garmin beeps, notifying me to relax.

A whistle blows. Relaxation must wait. A foul. Just seconds remain on the clock. I clench my knuckles willing the opponent to blink – to lose focus in a critical moment.

The orange ball bounces off the rim. A scramble occurs. The ball rolls out of bounds. The clock stops – with it my heart. I’m not sure how much more I can take.   

The teams reposition themselves. A clap. Seconds wind down. A flurry of arms and legs scurry across the court as a final Hail Mary attempt is made to change a W to an L. It is unsuccessful. The buzzer sounds. My son walks off the court a champion in my eyes. Or, more specifically, the winner of his final RBA Boys Basketball Game by 1 point. I’ve just aged 10-years in a single game. He’s 9 ½. Nobody told me parenting would be this hard.

“Mom. You are so loud,” he says to me after the game. I know this is a skill I need to reign in if my son is going to continue pursuing sports. I’m incredibly grateful to the underpaid and undervalued coaches who are investing their time and talent in teaching my son the foundation of multiple sports – they truly are heroes. Despite that, my overly competitive nature and sideline “spirit” is hard to squash, even at this age.

I’m not too surprised. After all, this is the same mom that gave umpires unsolicited feedback while playing catcher in little league, was coached for being too rough on the boys during a co-ed fourth grade basketball game, and perhaps was removed from a game or two for a competitive spirit that could be defined as borderline non-sportsmanlike. The fire in my belly was unnerving enough that I ultimately chose to twirl baton versus pursing high school sports. That, and the fact that while fierce on the field and court, I wasn’t very good.

Awareness is the first step right?   

I hope my son pursues whatever school adventures his heart desires, without mom embarrassing him too much. I’ll try my best to instill what my son unlovingly declares life lessons at the dinner table, while giving him space to be independent. To give him space to find his way. But man, parenting books need to highlight in bold how hard it is to watch your child lose. Worse yet, to lose something he could potentially win if he tried – but honestly doesn’t care.

Afterwards, I spoke to my son about his win. He was indifferent. He assumed he’d win. He was equally as indifferent when he has lost a few weeks prior. It is a balancing act – to encourage your child to pursue a goal and work hard and reap the benefits – but also keep things in perspective. I worried about this balancing act – to watch him win or lose – and still enjoy the game. Turns out I was the one who needed the lesson. You know, the one about playing for the love of the game.  Turns out he’s a lot more resilient that this middle-aged mom.

He’s convinced he’s going to play in the NBA, MLB and NFL (he doesn’t even play football yet). For a 9-year old whose living large and dreaming big on Moon Lake, he’s right where he should be. Meantime, you’ll find this mama planted on the bleachers doing her best to simmer down and enjoy the magic that is youth sports.