30 Thursday May 2013
I am thrilled to be joined today by middle school teacher Jennifer Chase. I met Jennifer two summers ago at a triathlon. I really, really like saying that because it makes it sound like I did the triathlon when in fact it was Jen competing in the grueling event.
But still. That word. It carries some weight.
So not only is Jennifer a middle school teacher (brave!) she’s also a bona-fide triathlete (super brave!), and today she joins us with a very powerful and touching piece about another form of bravery – losing. She writes from her perspective as both a mother and teacher as she watches her sons begin team sport tryouts.
She reminds us that sometimes failure is the most important thing that can happen to us.
I am lately reminded of an interesting reality parenting affords – the ability to simultaneously hold two conflicting ideas. Let me explain. Before I was a parent, I was a middle school teacher and, in fact, I am still a middle school teacher. As a teacher, I pride myself on helping parents interpret the language that is 13. I have metaphors and examples, compassion and tough love ready to go. Truly, I love teaching middle school and all the trauma and drama that accompanies every day.
In my role as a teacher, ask me how I feel about kids trying out for a team or a club, knowing there are limited spots. I’ll tell you that in the “real world” there aren’t endless positions available. Most people I know can tell you about an interview or audition experience in which they didn’t get the position they were seeking. Trying out, or auditioning, helps us realize the value of membership in the club or on the team. It helps us dig into the part of ourselves where personal motivation and desire is nurtured, teaching the value of work hard and practice. Trying out also teaches us about sportsmanship. There’s an important life lesson in learning to be graceful when you win as well as when you don’t. In short, try-outs are a good thing for young teenagers.
Now, ask me the same question as a mom. Now, I want to tell you that kids should be able to choose to play for as long as they possibly want. I’ll tell you that the “real world” crashes in too soon and pushes kids to grow up too fast. I’ll also share with you how much my kid wants to play, how deeply he loves the sport, how many hours he’s logged kicking a ball in the backyard. I’ll also tell you how easily teenage hearts break. What I want most, as a mom, is to sweep in and protect my babies. Each time my kids try out for a team I fight an overwhelming desire to call the coach and tell him what an amazing, thoughtful, generous player my son is, and to beg the coach to let him play.
While there are two simultaneous, and conflicting, ideas there is one that supersedes the other. I strongly believe that we learn when we struggle; that we learn when we fail and pull ourselves back up; that we learn when we put everything we have on the field and walk away spent. That belief and value in learning is stronger than my desire to sweep in and save the day. My heart is broken for the boy who didn’t make the team. But the pride in my heart for the young man that found another club to try out for and told me, “This experience will only make me stronger Mommy” – that pride is overwhelming.Pin It