Growing up I spent many days, nights and weekends on a softball field. Before every game, the teams would line up along the baseline and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the Little League Pledge. All these years later, I’m sure that I could ask any of my former teammates and they would all remember the words:
I trust in God, I love my country and will respect its laws
I will play fair, and strive to win
But win or lose, I will always do my best.
When you recite something over and over again, from the age of 9 – 18, the words blend together and become routine. These days, I still spend a lot of my time at a softball or baseball field, but now I’m on the other side of the fence.
A couple seasons ago, my daughter's team lost in the semi-finals. They battled until the very last out and ended up losing 4-3, a score that rarely happens in 10 and under softball. As they stood along the baseline to receive their participation medals, a few of the girls fought back tears. My daughter however, stood proudly, not a tear in sight. After the ceremony, she consoled her teammates and that is when her own tears started. She was sad that they were sad. She has always been our empathetic heart, always feeling the emotions of her friends ever since she was a baby at daycare. Now on the softball field it’s no different.
In the scenario above, I would have been one the girls with tears of disappointment of losing. In talking with a good friend about our softball days, she described me as “intense”, which I can’t deny. In hindsight, I would have had more fun if I could have dialed it back and spent more energy enjoying playing the game. I have been very aware of this from the first day my kids began to play. I have tried hard not to reflect my former intensity on my daughter. I’ve let her set the tone for her experience. This particular season started with her getting hurt during her first practice. It would have been easy for her to give up and quit, but she showed her toughness and kept going. She never got discouraged when she struggled with her hitting. She stepped into the batter’s box and approached every pitch with the optimism that she could do this. She was a great teammate, always cheering, always friendly and always smiling. Most important, she had fun.
Around this time, I watched an interview with Dr. Shefali Tsabary where she talked about her book “The Conscious Parent”. One of the quotes from the interview was “Our children are showing us a mirror to our undeveloped self.” She goes on to say explain how traditionally the parental role focuses on the parent teaching the child, but in reality, it is the child that teaches the parent. It would have been “normal” for me as a parent to try to create a “mini me” on the field. I could have taught her about softball based on my experience, instilling in her the drive to practice hard and see success in the number of wins. If I had pushed her to do things “my” way, things would have been much different. I know my daughter would not have responded to that kind of pressure. It would not have been true to who she is. By allowing her to create her own softball experience, with her own motivation, she has had developed her own love of the game, where she has fun playing, improves a little every year and has developed great relationships with her teammates.
Before her games, they don't recite the Little League Pledge, but it turns out she doesn’t have to, “Win or lose, I will always do my best” comes naturally to her and I couldn’t be more proud.
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.