I’m your biggest fan.

Posted: March 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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I was never super competitive, UNTIL my kid started to compete.

Growing up, I was the chunky kid in the outfield, drawing pictures in the dirt, while grounders rolled by me.
I didn’t really care about winning or losing. I just wanted to have fun.
But that all changed when my baby girl started playing softball.
Suddenly, a competitive fire ignited in me.
I really can’t explain the feelings. Every time she went up to bat, my heart pounded and my gut tightened. When she was running the bases, It was like I was running with her, even though I was sitting on really uncomfortable metal bleachers, usually eating corndogs.

Delanie started playing softball in first grade.
Over the years, she was a Jag, a Rebel and an Angel.
As her completely impartial father, I can safely say that she was pretty awesome!
When your kids play sports, it’s never a simple thing.
It’s a full on family endeavor.
It takes a team to play team sports.
It was a commitment! We had practice twice during the week and games on Saturday. There were cleats and team pictures to buy.
I carried her pink “Hello Kitty” equipment bag.
We showed up.
We sit and cheered her on.
We braved the elements and sat in the rain, the wind, the yellow North Carolina pollen dust.
All worth it!!!
Del played softball with a wide open fierceness.
She was the catcher. She was REALLY good at it. It was amazing to watch her throw her mask off and get underneath the fly ball and get the out.
She was fearless.
There is a special kind of parent pride when you watch your kid fearlessly pursue something they love. It’s a soul swell!
We felt undiluted joy when watching her play with all her heart. When she went for the ball and caught it.
But, sometimes, she missed the ball too. Sometimes, they lost.
Sometimes, we felt incomparable hurt when watching her play. We felt completely helpless when we watched her go for the ball and get beaned. Sometimes life hurts and we can’t protect our kids from the sting.
During the softball years, we met some really cool people. They were folks in the same boat as us. They were crazy about their kids.
They became great friends, a community sharing the bleachers.
There are so many life lessons to learn in kids sports. There was a lot of parental pressure put on some of the kids, pressure that they weren’t equipped to handle.
The pressure to win, to succeed, to not make any errors.
Some kids had no room to mess up and they totally knew it.
The coaches were volunteers, usually parents. Some were really good, others were scary.
Some coaches made the game interesting.
Some coaches made the game intimidating.
As adults we tend to take the play out of play.
There were always a few kids who just showed up at the ballpark. They got dropped off or rode their bikes. There weren’t any parentals in the bleachers for them. The present parents circled around and picked up the slack. We cheered them on too.
As parents, we felt pressure too! when it was your turn to bring the snacks, do you go healthy or fun? carrot sticks or cookies? String cheese or twinkles? Juice boxes or root beer? The other parents were watching!
There are countless opportunities for parents to embarrass themselves and their offspring.
I’ve seen Dads get in fist fights and Moms get in angry food fights.
They would shout and stomp and insult the coach, the umps and the opposing team.
Dude, it’s a game!!
There was always that one dad who “played ball in college” and is an expert. He didn’t volunteer to actually be the coach, because of his busy schedule. But, that didn’t stop him. He could still coach from the stands.
I knew I wasn’t the coach and I figured out, by the lack of a whistle, that I wasn’t the umpire.
During the game, my profession was determined by my position.
I was in the bleachers.
So, my job was to cheer.
Sometimes, I was tempted to coach or try to officiate.
But the bleachers are made for cheering.
After the game, the cheering was meant to continue. Win or lose, we always went to Sonic. Because, tator tots take some of the crunch out of a crushing defeat and cherry limeades make victory even sweeter.

As our kids grow though the innings of life, we play different roles.
We officiate, we are the umpires. We teach them what’s important, we should pass along character and values. When they get out of line, we blow the whistle and make the call.
There are times when we are the coach. We show them, mostly by our example, how to play the game. We should make the game interesting and not intimidating.
But, as we watch our kids get older, our role changes.
We take our place in the bleachers of their life.
Our role becomes clear.
We cheer.
We don’t choose.
We don’t criticize.
We cheer.
We would REALLY like to make all their choices for them. But we can’t, it’s their game, not ours.
When they do screw up and drop the ball (because, we all do.) it’s tempting to criticize or cut.
But, that’s not our job.
As our kids get older and begin their own game, we take our place on the bleachers and we cheer.
We make some noise.
We are bold in our belief of who they are.
They step up and play their game.
There will be BIG moments, there will be home runs and wins. They play with all their heart and it pays off. There will be times when your heart pounds and your gut tightens and you feel so much pride that you could explode.
There will also, inevitably, be moments when they strike out.
You will have to watch them lose sometimes. As much as you would like to, you won’t be able to insulate them from the pain. There will be bumps and bruises. They will get beaned by a few fly balls. You will feel so much hurt that you could explode.
When that happens, gently remind them that you are their biggest fan.
This is their game.
Don’t make their choices.
Don’t criticize or cut.
Cheer!
Make some noise.
Unfurl the flag that says “I BELIEVE IN YOU!!”
We are in the bleachers. Our job is to cheer.
And maybe…occasionally, win or lose, take them to Sonic because there is something magical about a cherry limeade and tots.

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