If you grow up in the South and you happen to be born with a Y chromosome, there is a high likelihood you will play sports. Not just one sport. Multiple sports. My husband grew up in Alabama and his first memories are at a ball field. His mom started him at 4 years old. And from what I’ve heard, Craig was an amazing athlete. Lettered in three sports, got a full ride to college on a football scholarship, then was drafted to play professional baseball. There is a fair chance my kids have some stellar athletic genes. Of course, unless they take after me.
The irony in all this … my boys are 7 and 4 and have zero desire right now to play sports. Neither one of them. Slightly odd since the hum of ESPN is a constant in our home. All of their friends are on some type of team. And they love to play ball with their daddy in the yard. Adding to the irony, they have raw talent. Catching, throwing, running; it all comes easy to them.
Instead of sports, they prefer to be outdoors all waking hours … digging, making forts, riding bikes, hunting insects, climbing trees. They stay covered in mud. They prefer to sleep in on the weekends. And stay up late making bonfires in the fall. They like to hike and fish and love spending an hour soaking in my tub. In this picture they were counting the black nail holes on the reclaimed wood wall. They laughed themselves silly seeing who could count the fastest.
The morning after I took this picture, sports came up in conversation with a mom I know. “What?! Your kids don’t play sports. Oh my God!! Why? Do you not let them? They are missing out. I can’t imagine! My husband and I both played sports in college. Our kids play sports. How unfortunate that yours don’t!” Big sign. Sad eyes.
Yes, there is always that mom. It’s fair to say the majority of my girlfriends have children who play sports. They are raising well balanced and good kids. And they would never make the assumption that every child in the universe must be on a team to grow up and become a successful adult. But you know that one mom I am talking about … an acquaintance who thinks her opinion matters when it comes to raising your children. It doesn’t. Pretty sure these boys came out of my womb. You mind your womb and I will mind mine.
I politely tell her that I’ve asked my boys if they want me to sign them up for a team. The answer is no and no. I believe what they say. And the truth of the matter is, I’m thrilled they don’t want to play sports right now. I don’t want to be lugging them, and a 1 year old, back and forth to the ball park after work. I don’t want hot dogs for dinner every other night. I don’t want to sit on hard wooden bleachers for 6 hours at a time. In 99 degree heat. I don’t want my entire weekend scheduled because of back to back games. And forcing my kids to do something they have no desire to do, sounds just as miserable. That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate sports and the many benefits. I get it. Being part of a team allows children to build self esteem, improve communication skills, and excel in the classroom. They form lifelong friendships and learn how to lose. The upside list is long. Too long to even mention all the perks of playing sports.
I just figure, if our boys ever develop an interest, they will be the first to let my husband and I know. And if that happens, we will go to all the games, eat the hot dogs for dinner and sit on the hard wooden bleachers. We will yell and cheer and wear the team colors.
But if they decide to never play sports, we will support that decision too.
In the meantime, instead of rushing to practice, I will let my boys take long baths and make up games in the tub. Instead of watching them from afar on a field, I will watch them up close, dig ditches and collect beetles. Instead of spending my time in a car commuting to the ball park, I will spend my time laying on the porch and counting stars with them. Instead of going to baseball parties, I will continue on with my living room dance parties. Instead of waiting hours in-between games, I will read to them, tickle them and pray with them.
Instead of setting aside the weekends for scrimmages, we will spend hours cooking together and bike riding together.
I will let them sleep in on Saturday mornings. I will let them stay up late on Friday nights to play cards. And instead of cheering for them in front of a crowd, I will cheer for them in my own yard.
To be clear, children who play sports can do all of that stuff too. Athletes are not missing out on life by any means … they are just on a tighter schedule due to practices and games consuming portions of the week. My brother was an athelete and he would make the point that kids who play sports have the best of both worlds. Like so many others, he begged my mom to let him join a team as soon as he could walk and talk. I have fond memories cheering him on.
Bottom line, every parent does what they think is best for their child. It is not about one child’s hobbies verse another child’s hobbies, as every human finds joy in different activities. It’s about listening to your little ones and helping them follow their dreams, whatever those dreams are. It’s about making the decision not to judge how other parents and children spend their time.
So to the big sigh and sad eyes. I say this to you. I love that your children play sports. You should be so proud of them. And I love that you are so passionate about it. I support you and your decisions as a mom.
For me, I don’t want my boys in school all day … then away from me on the field all night. Not now. Not yet. I don’t want to share them every moment of the day. They are only 4 and 7. They will have their entire life to be on a team. To play sports. They have middle school and high school. And perhaps
college, depending on their skill set. I at least want them all to myself in elementary school … because pretty soon, they won’t be taking baths anymore. They won’t be counting nail holes on the wall and laughing until they slump over in the bubbles. The world will get them. School. Friends. Technology. Girls. Trips. And maybe even sports. And I’ll look back on the picture and know for a brief time, only God and I had them.