Parenting trial runs

Dear Hailee,

We don’t know what we are doing. I’ll just own that! You are our first child and our trial run. I worry constantly about how I may be screwing you up! This week I have been so stressed making decisions for your future. In reality, these decisions may be inconsequential, but they feel life changing.

Club soccer tryouts are this week and next week. You played all last year for the 08 team even though your birthday is 09. You did well, held your own, and improved SO much. You are so speedy on the field and not afraid to go after the ball, no matter how big the player is you are confronting! It has been so fun to watch your growth, Hailee! However, more than once throughout the year, you wanted to quit. We insisted you finish the season as you made a commitment to your team and we are all glad you did. Your team, Avalanche, went from being the worst in your division to the second best! All of you improved SO much! At the end of the season, you were really enjoying soccer again.

Selfishly, we really want you to stick with soccer. It’s something you are good at and a sport you can play throughout high school, if you wanted to. We like you playing a team sport where you learn the value of teamwork, sportsmanship, etc.

But do we keep you on your 08 team? Your team is moving up a division because you all did so well! We are so proud of you for that, but also wonder what that means? You are already younger and smaller than everyone on your team. While you aren’t afraid of playing against bigger girls, as you get older, players will get more aggressive. Will that matter? I don’t know. Your coach says he is happy to have you continue to play on their team but said it might be to your advantage to play with your age group; the 09 team. The 09 team’s coach is eager to have you and she seems like she’d be a great coach. You are also a little young, interpersonally, so maybe you’d have an easier time connecting with teammates if you played on the 09 team. However, your best friend is trying out for the 08 team and you really want to play on the same team as her. But we have no idea if she will make the team or not!

Ideally, we’d just wait to see if your best friend makes your team and then make a decision. But we have to let the 09 coach know tomorrow if you ware going to be on her team or stay on the 08 team.

The good news is, we are faced with two good options. But which is the RIGHT one? Is there a right one? Does this really matter? My biggest priority for you, Hailee, is for you to grow, build confidence, learn teamwork, develop skills, appreciate your body, and have fun! I worry that staying on the 08 team you won’t have fun if your best friend doesn’t make the cut and you face really hard teams. But I worry that if we put you on the 09 team, you won’t have fun if your friend makes the 08 team but you can’t play with her!

On top of all this, you qualified to move up in gymnastics. They want you to enter the Pre-Team level, which requires four hours of commitment a week at the gym. I honestly don’t want you to do this but you get so upset at any suggestion of not moving up in gymnastics or quitting. You say you love gymnastics. And in contrast to soccer, with gymnastics, you never, ever complain about going.  You have also come a really long way with your gymnast skills and can do a back handspring into a back tuck. You are especially proud of your skills on the bars. You are really coordinated in your body and it’s fun to watch you. But I honestly don’t want to encourage gymnastics much more. As you progress in gymnastics, it takes over your life. Just ask your aunt Ruth. She had a really positive experience with it but I don’t want you to spend every day at the gym, for hours on end. I want you to be a kid and have playdates and time with family. I am also sensitive to environments that can make you vulnerable to caring about your weight, shape, and size. I want you to love and honor your body and I know there are sports that (depending on the coaches, teammates, and environments) can be toxic for body image.

Soccer is more focused on performance and it doesn’t matter what your body looks like. It only matters what your body can do. But soccer is also big commitment and I don’t feel we can continue to do both soccer and gymnastics. I’m also not sold on you choosing just between soccer and gymnastics. I want you to try tennis. Maybe even karate. Maybe lacrosse or volleyball! You are only 9 (in one week) and you don’t need to decide now what sport to specialize in! But there is only so much time in the day and I really feel the pressure, that if you want to be really good at something, you need to start NOW. I could totally be wrong about that, but this pressure is in the water. So many parents are stressing out about this! That’s validating but also serves to increase my anxiety. Parenting decisions are the worst!

I also want to be mindful to not project my history onto your story. I have a lot of regrets with sports. I am athletic and could have been really good at either soccer or volleyball. But I lacked the commitment. I gave up too easily and didn’t push myself. I also had some negative experiences with coaches, but instead of quitting, I could’ve found a new team. I don’t want you to have regrets like mine. But I also don’t want you to feel you need to compete at an elite level. You don’t. In fact, I don’t want you to.

All I want is for you to be able to be the best version of you. I want to provide you opportunities and experiences to facilitate that growth. But I hope you always know that I see you as amazing, worthy, and whole, just as you are. Nothing you can do, or don’t do, can ever change that fact or my love for you. I am so proud of you. I am also probably going to screw you up. We all get screwed up by our parents, right? I can only do my best and hope I do more right by you than wrong, and through it all, love you fiercely and unconditionally. I am also more than happy to pay for your therapy bills in the future! 😉

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