When Kids Teach Mamas: Lessons Learned from Watching My Kid Sit the Bench

When was the last time you cheered someone on — no strings attached? Just because you genuinely wanted another person to achieve her very best? 

When was the last time you applauded for someone, without privately wondering how you measure up in comparison? Without harboring inner resentment or jealousy because your friend was in a position or place of authority you wished was yours.

When was the last time you genuinely wanted the best for someone else without regard to how it compares to your 'success' or lack thereof?

And, friends, cheering on your children doesn’t count.

You are not in competition with your kids. May I lovingly suggest you seek some professional counseling on that if you are. (Just watch the movie 'Tangled' for some jacked up mother/daughter relationships if you need an example.)

Of course, encouraging your kids with abandon is a great thing to do. Don’t get me wrong! Mamas and Daddys, Nanas and Papas should cheer wildly when little Johnny kicks the winning goal or garners the solo in the spring concert. By all means, bring flowers and go out for ice cream.

But what if your kid doesn’t kick the winning goal? What if she doesn’t make the starting line up? What if he isn’t on the dean’s list or nominated for an end of the year award. What if little Sally sits the bench most of the time. What then? 

Are we tempted to look at our peers (or our peers’ children) and secretly compare and contrast how we or our little Johnny measure up?

These thoughts hit me square in the heart as I watched, rather marveled at my teenage daughter this past semester during her club volleyball season. 

At the risk of sounding completely over-the-moon about this girl (so sue me!) I have to say, I was and continue to be profoundly impacted by her demeanor both on, but mostly off the court. 

Watching her on this part of her adolescent journey has illuminated a profound concept for me. You see, she didn’t start a single game. There were actually plenty of games when she never rotated in for a single play. And yet, she had the absolute time of her life. 

She enjoys the game more than ever. She improved immensely as a player. She adores her teammates. She respects her coaches and never grumbled.

Unlike her mother. The grumbling part, I mean. 

There were plenty of times I sat on the sidelines wondering when she might rotate in. I understand the fact that club sports are no joke. A lot of time and money goes into this business.  And I understand that even though everyone writes the same check, at the end of the day, players need to earn their time on the court — or field or rink or wherever it is they do their thing.

My head respects the process. But my mama’s heart? Now that’s a tougher pill to swallow.

I would be lying if I said I never once questioned why we were spending all this time and money just to watch her cheer from the sidelines. Why we bought plane tickets and invited family to come and ultimately watch other people’s darling children play more than our own. 

At the end of the day, however, I had to ask myself, if the amount of game play time is the end all and be all of this experience?

Do we register and pay to play only if our kids are the best? Do we expect that the price tag alone will guarantee our kids’ play time? And if they aren’t going to play as much as we might wish, do we pull out entirely or try a different club hoping we’ll garner a different experience? 

All these questions are absolutely legit.  And I presume if your kids play sports of any kind you have already processed these things and come to your own conclusions. May I say, I have total respect for wherever you land. 

But as I sat across the court from my daughter and watched her and her “bench buddies” cheer on their teammates with reckless abandon, my heart melted. 

From the other side of the room, I never saw these girls withhold affection or grimace with faces that just wanted to know when they might get their own 15 minutes of fame. No. I only saw joy and encouragement and young ladies who knew that the success of the athletes on the court was theirs as well because they were a TEAM.

I know this feeling only too well.

As a blogger and self-published author, I have seen plenty of my "teammates" (other blogger, writer, author friends) experience loads more worldly success than I have. For sure, my heart has wondered what they "have" that I don't.

However, at the end of the day, I feel like we're all on the same team. I will be true to my place in the world, my spot on the team and do my very best to play hard and leave it all on the court. I will share what I can and I will also cheer on my teammates because ultimately if they are contributing beauty and testimony of freedom and victory into the world -- isn't that a major win for all of us?

A rising tide raises all ships and that is a tide (or team) I want to be on. 

How do you cheer others on in your sphere of influence? Are you tempted to hold back out of jealously or fear that their success might impede your own?

Christina's Take:

I've definitely held back. I do hold back. And I think many, many of us do. What is it about? I suppose I am either worried that my endorsement of someone's message somehow lines me up with that "opinion" in a way about which I'm insecure or I am withholding praise because of in irrational thought that there is a limited amount of praise that I should offer so I need to manage that scarcity. Ridiculous. I am embarrassed by that. And I am newly challenged by your lovely daughter to applaud more freely no matter how I measure up against someone else. So grateful for this message!

Holly's Take:

I love this story, especially in a world where we hear so much about the negative things we see in teens and preteens right now.  The picture of her cheering is not one where she is trying to convince herself to cheer for her friends . . . she just is . . . it is genuine and passionate cheering. I love it!  When I see people being cheerleaders of others, (my friends, Heather Briggs and Erin Cook comes to mind), I think to myself, "I want to be just like her."  It is such a beautiful quality.  I hope I don't hold back and be more "Heathery" with those I know and don't know no matter what their degree of success.