Sometimes before I even start to type a post I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach. I start to worry how readers will judge a decision I made. Honestly, most of those posts never make it to the publish button, but I read an interesting quote yesterday that is leading me to be a little more brave. "No writer is always right. What matters is how he or she grapples with being wrong." Andrew Sullivan
So, for better or for worse, here is a glimpse into my grappling:
A few weeks ago our school decided to host an after school kickball tournament as a way to build community. It was an optional event. The students who wanted to participate were charged with getting their own team of up to 14 together. There are 18 boys in our school's 3rd grade.
Without detailing the specifics of 9 year old boy playground drama, you can likely imagine how it went down. The most athletic 10 boys formed one team and the other boys who wanted to play were left to form their own. My sons were both on the latter team--and they named themselves "The Champs" which makes my heart smile. They were a real-life rendition of the Bad News Bears--underdogs from the start--but they didn't seem to label themselves as such.
Adults were allowed to play on the teams, so when our sons asked, a few of the parents of "The Champs" dressed out today and joined in the fun. Close friends of ours had also heard from their son of his hurt at being left out--and let me tell you we came to play. My husband started operating a whole hour earlier this morning so he could make it.
To watch he and the other dad dive, run & play kickball like it was a World Cup Final was simultaneously hilarious and heartwarming--especially when I knew the back story. These Daddies weren't playing for their glory (well, not entirely) but for the love of their boys.
When I was feeling the height of my competiveness surge, I cringed. I struggled a bit with whether this was the right thing to do. Was our decision to play with them fiercely loving or immature? Should we have downplayed the whole thing or were we teaching an important lesson about tenacity?
I am a HUGE fan of letting my kids fight their own battles and learn from life as it comes--not as I manufacture it. However, there was no negativity--no name calling--no rule breaking or string pulling. No, we all simply went out and played our best. We laughed. We encouraged. And we tried to model the kind of love I wrote about in the previous post. Love that was FOR our kids much more so than AGAINST anyone else.
Our first game was against very athletic 5th grade boys. I quipped as we walked onto the field that it was a reenactment of David & Goliath--except this time the outcome was more predictable. They could have beat us much worse than they did--but they were consummate good sports who cheered on our boys and encouraged them. The second game was more evenly matched--and our third game even moreso. Almost miraculously, we won two of the three games.
We never even met the other 3rd grade team head-to-head as we were both eliminated. (Did I mention that my daughter was playing on the team my boys were left out of? Ugh!) Now there is the grace of God.
I am still pondering the lessons I learned. How dangerous of a beast the Mama Bear within can be when you feel as if your kids have been wounded! (That Daddy Bear isn't any better. :) But I think it meant a lot to our boys that we showed up for them today.
We entered their worlds. We attempted to understand their little hearts--and instead of being bitter, we played the game with all we had. We didn't fight their battles for them, we fought with them. We modelled how to not give up--and we all had fun in the process.
There is no doubt we will need a great deal of ibuprofen in the next 24 hours, but from where I sit tonight, it was worth it.