My son, at age eight, has just started playing basketball. Like a lot of things, originally he wanted to sign up. Then, after signing him up, he changed his mind and wanted to play something else. He was and is insecure because he’s never done it and isn’t good. He’s felt this way when he started baseball and soccer too. And with a little encouragement and nudging, he has gone on to have fun. Because at age eight, we tell him, you don’t have to be good. It’s not too late to just be starting or trying something for the first time, despite what other die-hard sports-fanatic parents may think. In a society where we rush everything, including growing up, there really is time if we as parents allow.
So, he went to his first practice, a little nervous, because he only knew one kid, his best friend at school. He really wanted those basketball shoes too because they’d help him jump higher. Despite wearing his everyday tennis shoes, he did pretty well. His dad took him and I heard about it afterwards. Brody seemed pretty happy and my husband said he wasn’t the worst. However, he left the practice telling his dad that he felt like a fool since everyone was better than him.
He may have left practice that day because several of the other kids acted like brats, didn’t listen to the coach, and took my son’s confidence down a couple notches. One of the kids yelled out before a drill, “maybe this one will be easier for Brody Hamilton”. When my husband told me this, my blood boiled. Like all parents, our natural instinct is to protect. I immediately told my husband that I don’t think I could have watched that and not intervened. When I asked what Brody did, he said he ignored it (just like I would have told him to do).
Take two, second practice. Brody didn’t seem nervous to go. This time, I watched the last half of practice and really thought due to his hustle, he was pretty good and definitely not the worst. He seemed happy enough leaving until he said to me but I feel like a fool. This broke my heart, such powerful words. Again, he explained he’s not good and doesn’t feel like he knows what he’s doing like the other boys. But, he told me, the boy that was mean last week was nicer to him.
You know, I’ve met some fools both young and old. No, Brody, being a fool is letting someone’s words and opinions about you matter and reacting. He had not. Being a fool is not trying something because you’re afraid you won’t be good. Being a fool is tearing other people down so you can feel better about yourself. Being a fool is never starting, and watching from the sidelines. Brody is a lot of things; but he’s not a fool.
I don’t need to intervene for him. He can handle rude kids. I don’t need to lie and tell him he’s the best player out there either. All I need to do is support his efforts, tell him I’m proud of doing hard things, and he can do the rest. I trust and believe in him. Being a fool is thinking your child can’t do it, and not allowing them the space to try. We all feel like fools from time to time, but stick with it. Try hard things. And, hold your head high even if you fail. Fools never try.