Heading into the 4th quarter, my son’s basketball team was up by six. It was a low scoring affair as most games featuring 8-9 year olds are. It all fell apart for them and they ended up losing by six. My son was completely dejected. He hadn’t had his best game and when it was over he came to the sideline to meet up with us and started to tear up a bit. He was heartbroken.
When the dust settled we all got together for lunch (his mom, sisters, him and I). While we were waiting on our food I leaned across the table and told him I was proud of him. He looked at me with this shocked look on his face and peered at me inquisitively. I continued; “You never quit. You never pointed a finger at another player. You didn’t beat yourself up when you made a mistake. You respected your coach. You gave it your all. You fought to the very end. Overall you played with maturity and I could never ask more of you.” I know, I know, it was a little cliche’. But I meant every word.
I have to admit I was kind of taken aback when he looked at me with a bit of a sigh of relief. I half expected him to brush it off and remind me of all the negatives. Or tell me, “You have to say that because you’re my dad.” But he didn’t. As I leaned back to make room for our waiter to place our plates down, my son just sat there, kind of perked up a bit and smiled.
It’s so easy to tell a kid how they need to act mature and roll with the punches isn’t it? Easy to judge their actions and approach to life and offer our worldly advice. But what about us? What about the parent? Who’s coaching us? After lunch the kids went with their mom. When I got home I thought about my week. Thought about how many times I missed the shot or turned the ball over. There were more than a few this week. And then I looked in the mirror and smiled. I felt very much like my son as I visualized him walking across the court beating himself up over the game. Replaying over and over every error and kicking myself. But one of the things I love about having kids is how often I learn more about myself simply by watching my children grow. The words I say to the kids reverberate in my head and quite often I find that the very speech I gave my kid is one I needed to hear myself.
The truth is we’re all kids at heart. We may age on the outside. But inside we’re still nine on so many levels. We take on the world with more experience every day, but still battle the same insecurities we did when we were in elementary school. Despite a few more decades under our belts, we’re still pretty good at beating ourselves up when we make mistakes. Just like our kids, sometimes we need to be reminded that how we handle our mistakes is more important than if we win the game.
I truly was proud of my son this afternoon. He became a little more of a young man today. He may have missed a shot or two, but his attitude, well that was a slam dunk. I can only hope I can say the same for myself this week.