My daughter starts soccer tomorrow. When the team rosters were sent out last week, I noticed that three of her friends were on a team together, whereas she was put on a different team with five other people she didn’t know. My first thought was “Great! This way she can make lots of new friends and it will be a good way for her to get out there a little more.”
Then, I told her the news and her excited face immediately fell. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t be with her friends and she was nervous about meeting anyone new. I hopped online to learn more about the situation and see what I could do. Then, I noticed that there was another team with two of her other friends on it and that team didn’t have a coach assigned. My mama bear instincts kicked in and I immediately emailed the head of the league. I explained that I’d be happy to take on the coaching position if my daughter could be moved over. He was happy to do so and our first match is in less than 24 hours.
The only problem? I’ve never played a game of soccer in my life.
I’m about the last person qualified to coach a team of little people who are probably more coordinated than I am when it comes to the game. Thankfully, I’ve recruited my husband to his surprise and I’m hoping that together we can scrape together a successful season ala Little Giants style. After I made the switch, I was thrilled at first and so was my daughter. Yet, the more I thought about it, I considered that maybe I went too far. We’ve heard of the negative effects that helicopter parenting can cause. Was I doing just that by hovering over her and making sure she didn’t feel left out?
Or, was I just being a thoughtful and hands-on mom who wanted the best for her child? The answer really lies in a gray area and I’m still not certain. It’s hard to find those lines sometimes, especially when we’re trying above all else to raise happy, healthy and successful children. They can’t even tie their shoes, so it’s up to me to guide them and train them up into solid adults. Do I let them learn through hard lessons, defeat and setbacks, sitting back and allowing life to happen to them at the breakneck pace it tends to do? Or, do I hold their hands every mile of the journey shielding them in a bubble every second so challenges bounce off of me and never have a chance to penetrate them?
Ideally, perfect parenting lies somewhere in between. The only catch? There is no perfect parent. We’re all just doing our best, stepping in when we feel it’s appropriate and pulling away when it’s right too. When I dropped my daughter off for her first day of preschool last year, I gave the director my cell number and asked for hourly text updates because it took a good 10 minutes to peel her away from my shins and get her into the classroom. I tried to go home and do laundry and clean up for a few hours but ended up driving to the church parking lot and watching her on the swingset from my driver’s seat point-of-view.
It’s hard, knowing how to create a solid foundation and feel that we’re doing right by them in the end. Like a contractor whose builder confidence rises when the real estate market full of happy homebuyers, I find my confidence in my abilities is highly dependent on how happy my children are. My own mom actually has a quote framed in her bedroom that reads, “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child.” While totally true, isn’t that a lot of pressure to place on ourselves?
Our babies are complex, emotional human beings and we’ll never get it exactly right. We hold them too tightly or not tightly enough. We insert ourselves and mettle incessantly or we completely miss the signs that someone is suffering from a heartbreak. We try too hard or too little and every day it’s something new. To hinge our confidence on their flashes of feeling can leave us feeling inadequate more times than necessary. Instead, let’s rest easy in the knowledge that wanting so badly to get it right means we probably will. In the meantime, let’s play ball!