“WE” versus “HER” – Softball Parenting

We got perhaps the BEST fan question ever last week.

A fan question, that each of us as adults, and parents HAS to at least ask ourselves from time to time.

When it comes to softball, and softball parents and players – most of us identify the it as a “WE” relationship.  But is it REALLY a WE?

Certainly, a parent must be committed to their daughters desire to play the sport both with time and money – and when our kids are very young we are still pretty much in charge of, and responsible for everything that they do.

But once they get older – say 6th grade, 12U,  (When participation awards lose their charm,  the act of entitlement has to be broken if our daughters are to grow up as healthy, responsible and even happy individuals) the child HAS TO BECOME RESPONSIBLE. They have to start DOING THEIR PART.

After all, playing is a privilege offered by parents and guardians, but it is not just a given.

We, as parents may be guiding the ship – but we cannot do it, or accept responsibility for where it goes all by ourselves. If we do, if we try – we don’t do our most important job as parents. Raising self confident, secure, able-bodied, young women who are willing and able to accept responsibility and consequences for themselves.

The question posted on our Facebook page was this:

What is your advice for separating your own self-worth from your child’s performance in sports.  I am too majorly invested in how my daughter does with pitching and I have just worked all of the “fun” out of it for her.  I have backed off a lot and it is better, but I know I have to figure out that her performance isn’t who I am.  I know to type it, it is a duh statement.  But  every time I talk about her pitching it is “we this and we that” it has to be her, her, her.  Any advice besides the obvious?”
This parent, brave enough to air this question has already taken the first step. Recognizing that the pitching is really about her daughter. Her question about tying self worth to our children is an old age one. As parents, of course we want our kids to succeed, as we feel like when they do, it means we are doing our jobs right. When THEY fail, we automatically think WE FAILED. And that’s not a truth – that is just something that we have to BUY into.
Even so, if you think back to your own life, it is the failures that have likely taught you the most. In softball, kids have two choices. They can either rise up to the challenge, or cower to it. If a parent is the ONLY motivator, constantly there nagging, pushing, wanting what is not theirs to want – the child will react in the most natural manner. By defying, or resenting which eventually leads to quitting BECAUSE THE DESIRE WAS NOT THEIR OWN.
Kids are pretty smart And they, like anyone else in this world, know WHAT THEY EARN and what they didn’t. They know how they feel, know their hearts. If they are only doing something to please mom or dad – or to earn parental approval, or because they have to – they won’t feel good about their successes. They also know when their parents are partaking in over-indulgent parenting, and making constant excuses for them, and allowing them to be mediocre by being too invested in their successes and failures.
Of course, we want to see our kids do well in softball, and in life.  That’s only natural. Yet clinging to tightly and trying to have too much control, only stymies our children in a most monumental way.
In the moment, we think about how much time and money and effort WE, (as parents) have put in and we want to see results. But the reality is that we cannot DO for our children with strings attached. They have to WANT to see the results themselves.  Remember, we only HELP steer the ship.( One of my favorite pieces of writing about letting go and parenting is right here. )
Plus, there will that one coach (that you probably won’t be able to stand) or that one teacher, or that one person in your daughters life that will come along and who will push and push and push them. Who won’t cut them slack. Who will give them a hard time. Not to be mean, but because they see the greatness in your daughter and want to bring it out. Your daughter may hate him or her, but in the end – it is THIS person who shows your daughter what SHE is capable of.
At the end of the day, it comes to letting go. Knowing when to step in, and when to allow your daughter to be in charge. You have to watch your daughter strike out, just like you watch her hit a home run. And as the parent, it is simply your job – to love her anyway and regardless of whether she succeeds or fails. What she does, and what she thinks and feels – are NOT something that you are allowed to really know, or feel, or think. Your daughter is her own person, and she wants you to trust her and respect her and allow her to be an individual. On and off the ball field.
I think Kahlil Gibran says it best in his poem about our children.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.  
       For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.  
      You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
        The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.  
      Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;  
      For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable!
We are to act as the stable bow. To have faith in the daughters that we are raising. And to realize that being overly attached to their success or failure, as if it is our own- is perhaps the worst thing we can do to our daughters. We have to allow our daughters to OWN, and OWN UP, to their success or failures.

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