My son loves all things sports. He loves football, baseball, soccer, basketball and anything in between. I love his passion for sports, and in our experience, sports are a great outlet for him and full of wonderful life lessons. He learns to play on a team. He learns to encourage other players. He learns what it feels like to play on a losing team, to be discouraged and to somehow keep going, even when the going never really gets better. We've had some serious Bad News Bears seasons.
I really love it all. I never expected to love kids' sports as much as I do as a mother, but love them I do. I never regret lugging all those chairs, coolers, batting bags and catcher's gear to field after field, even in the Arizona heat.
This season, he had to try out for a baseball team. My son is almost 10 (one more day), so this seemed a little young for tryouts, but he really wanted to do it. I sat watching him patiently wait for his turn, chewing on his fingernails, unable to eat from nerves. I watched him play his heart out, knowing he was being assessed and may or may not make the team. I swear I crossed my fingers behind my back and held my breath the whole time, not because I cared if he 'made the team,' but because there is nothing more angst-inducing than watching our children put themselves out there. I was proud of him for going, trying and playing. We all went home and waited to hear.
A few weeks later, we got an email saying he'd been placed on a team. I think it was far less anxiety-inducing and low-key than I'd imagined, but I was happy for him nonetheless.
Then, a week later, we got the practice schedule. Practices and games would be held a few times each week from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM.
My husband and I looked at each other. We'd run into this timing only once before, and we'd switched our son immediately. I made a promise to myself, early on as a mother, that I would never let extra-curricular activities get in the way of family dinners and quiet evenings. That promise has been slowly fading as the kids get older and activities pick up.
But 7:30 - 9:30 PM?
Our son wouldn't get to bed until 10:30, at the earliest. If practice ends at 9:30, we get home around 10, after we collect all of the gear, haul it to the car and drive home. Then, he would need to eat. Then he would need to shower. And then he'd fall into bed. I asked myself: is this the life I want my 10-year-old to have? Is this the life I want to have?
The answer was a resounding no.
So, with seriously heavy hearts, we pulled him from the team and got our refund. We tried to have him transferred, but they wouldn't work with us. So, in the end, we opted out. Our son is actually quite calm about it. He immediately turned his attention to any other sport he might play. Still, I have a seriously heavy heart over here, especially as I know this will come up time and again as my kids continue to grow.
It is so often a struggle to balance our personal values with what society has to offer. What I value and how I chose to rule my roost will always differ, sometimes fundamentally, with many of the people around me. There is a time to let things go, to bend rather than break. But there is also a time to stand firm.
I have no idea if I made the 'right' choice. I have this feeling more often as my kids get older. The choices aren't so black and white as they once were, when they were toddlers and it was a decision about cartoon options or snacks.
I suppose parenting is a lot of crossed fingers. :)