I remember my third grade teacher telling me that most of our parents wish they could be children again. I thought my third grade teacher was wrong and slightly crazy, because I could not wait to grow up! Growing up was taking soooo long. I polled my first grade class recently about this and, after many years, not much has changed. Most of my students wish that they were adults. With newfound knowledge from a recent lesson I learned, I explained to the students that there are difficult things about being an adult and there are difficult things when you are a child. (More on that lesson soon!)
As an adult, it’s hard to remember back to my childhood and to think of it being difficult. I think like most people, I have a tendency to romanticize my growing up years. Also, I now have a better perspective on why certain stressors occurred in my childhood; they were character-building. They helped me develop as a person, and I am grateful now that I had those opportunities to grow.
Now back to the more recent lesson I learned…
Last spring, both of my children participated in sports. My son Troy played baseball, and my daughter Juliet played softball. It was a lot to manage: practice schedules, game schedules, making sure that they had a good, healthy dinner every night, making sure they showed up to the correct location with the correct, clean uniform, and of course, getting homework done. On top of that, I tried my best to keep up with the regular household duties.
I was so busy trying to manage all of this that I did not think about how stress-inducing organized sports could be on a child. They both agreed to sign up for these sports, so there was not a second of consideration about their stress level. My daughter, when I was dropping her off, would have a hard time walking onto the field. I was not sure what was going on, but she eventually got to the field and participated. She played well and put her all into the game. I saw her grow and improve as a player as the season progressed. She played multiple positions and her hitting became more accurate. I was proud of her.
To celebrate the end of the season, the coach had a terrific idea. He wanted the girls to play a game against their parents. I was hoping that my husband, who had played baseball and softball in the past, would sign up first for this, but somehow, my son ended up being the catcher, and I found myself up at bat. Luckily, I have taken both my children to enough batting lessons to understand (on a superficial level) how to be somewhat successful at bat. I knew that the secret to batting is in the hip movement, which was not at all what I thought at first.
The feeling of being up at the plate was incredibly nerve-wracking. All eyes were on me, and there was a ball flying at me faster than I felt comfortable with. During this time, I was overwhelmed with the pressure of my team’s expectations of me, as well as my own expectations for myself, and of course, I was trying desperately not to get some sort of horrific injury. It was as if all of the pressure descended on me like a dark storm cloud that I felt on every level. I suddenly understood why my daughter had sometimes struggled to go to practice.
At that moment I was given a greater perspective for what my children had been facing. Yes, I have been guilty of saying: “Stay in the box!”; “Swing the bat!”; or “Swing harder!” None of those sayings were probably helpful. On that hot, late spring day, I understood my children better. I saw how hard it can be to be a child. I knew that something in me had to change as well: I had to be more understanding, push them to do hard things, and pray that they can persevere when they are faced with hard things.
Now, when they are up at bat, I am quiet and pensive, and I pray for them. I know that God can use this and other situations as an opportunity to build character in both of them.
To no longer leave you in suspense: my “time at bat” was not as successful as I wanted it to be: I struck out! Success did come, but in a different way: I learned a powerful lesson. I now see my children better, understand them in a deeper way, and I now know to be gentler when encouraging them to do hard things. I challenge you to try to put yourself in your child’s shoes. It was so helpful to me!
I leave you with one more noteworthy item: Juliet’s coach DID comment on my successful hip rotation during my swinging! Just like we encourage our children to do better and be better, we can take up the same challenge as parents. I am so grateful to my children for being such great teachers.