Saturday, November 20, 2010

Getting a new perspective through the eyes of an eight year old

If someone would have told me ten years ago that I would have two athletic kids I would have thought they were nuts.  There isn't an ounce of athleticism in my body, and very little in Bob's, but for some reason both Katie and Ethan have an incredible amount of endurance and generally decent athletic ability.  My son seems to be  the more athletic of the two, as we received several complements this past soccer season on his ability.  He was a crazy, head butting speed demon that was always playing the middle because he could so quickly run up and down the field to cover both offense and defense. So it was with great anticipation that we had Ethan try out for the travel soccer team for the first time this year.  Katie had already enjoyed a year of travel soccer, and I was really looking forward to getting Ethan on a team and developing his skills.

The tryout process is an extensive one, a total of four hours over two days where the kids are put through a number of drills while the coaches do some sort of evaluation on the sea of kids.  We had already experienced the process the previous year with Katie (see this post), so I knew what to expect, and knew that in most cases the kids would not get cut.

Once the tryout process is over there is a two month wait before you hear anything in which you have to keep telling your kids to be patient when they frequently ask "When are we going to find out about soccer??"  Finally, at the beginning of this week, we received notification that Katie would be on the U-10 team.  Once that news came in, I waited with impatient anticipation to find out about Ethan, obsessively checking our email and running to the mailbox as soon as the mail arrived. Days went by with no email, no letter.  I suppose you know where this is going.  On Friday we received an envelope in the mail, only it wasn't the fat congratulatory letter, full of registration forms and due dates.  Instead, we received a very thin envelope which contained our returned registration check and a form letter stating that "Unfortunately, Ethan was not selected for the travel team for the 2011 season."

I was dumbfounded.  How could this be?  The kid is a good athlete, and as good as any of those other boys trying out!  Knowing that I was working on very little sleep after a week of bronchitis, I went back to our bedroom and shut the door so the kids couldn't see me losing my mind in front of them.  Waves of anger and frustration went through me as I burst into tears, thinking about how Ethan will once again have to tag along to Katie's games, sitting on the sidelines in complete boredom and knowing that he did not make a team while his sister did.  It wasn't fair.  It wasn't right!  I felt myself turning into "crazy parent", the kind that wants to fight back with complaints about the system and its politics.

Once I calmed down, Bob and I had to let Ethan know he didn't make the team.  It is quite a difficult thing to deliver bad news to your son.  I didn't want to see his spirit crushed by this stupid process.  But we just kind of flat out told him:

"Sorry buddy, but you didn't make the travel team".

"Aw, darn!" says Ethan.

"You know, you can still play rec league next year, and I'll even let you try baseball if you want".

"Yay!" he says, "Can I go play now?"  and with that he ran back out of the room.

I am always overanalyzing my son.  He is not a verbal communicator, and sometimes I feel I have to hound him with multiple questions and observations to figure out what is going on in his head.  "He must be so upset he doesn't want to show it." I thought.  After a few minutes, I went back to talk to him again and make sure he was alright.

"You know, buddy," I said, " it's alright to be sad.  Are you feeling sad?  Do you want to talk about it?"

Ethan stopped what he was doing and looked at me.  "Mom, this doesn't make me sad.  If we lost our house, then I would be sad."  And he returned to playing with whatever little toy gadget was in front of him.

If we lost our house, then I would be sad.  I had just been put in my place by an eight year old.  That's right, kid.  There are far worse things to happen to you than to be cut from a soccer team.  Bob and I are very blessed to both be employed at the moment.  We are all in good health.  Our kids are doing well in school and staying out of trouble.  So many other families are not nearly as fortunate as us.  It took an eight year old to remind me that relative what other friends are dealing with right now, not making a soccer team is pretty insignificant.

This Thanksgiving I will certainly be counting my blessings, for I have many.  I am particularly blessed to have a son that doesn't take disappointment very seriously, and seems to have a better perspective on life than his crazy, over-reacting mother.  Thank you, little man.  You taught your mother a valuable lesson.