An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In Which We Heard, But Didn't Listen

Two weeks ago Jonathan, our 9th grader, came home from school on Friday and announced that he did not want to continue playing football. A summer of conditioning, two-a-day practices in August, a Midnight Madness pre-season exhibition, a scrimmage in which he actually got to play . . . and then, with the first game of the season just around the corner, he wants out.

You can imagine the discussions in our house that weekend. Why? we asked, and then grew frustrated when it all boiled down to the simple fact that he just didn't like it. But that wasn't a good enough answer for us. We talked about commitment, overcoming obstacles, and teamwork. We talked and we talked but, by Sunday, he was adamant about his decision. Well, we said, take a break from practice for a couple of days and think about it.

My husband and I waited through Monday. Then Tuesday. During this time we entered into a parenting wasteland ... the place parents go when they are racked with indecision. We didn't know how to guide our son because we were lost, too. Oh, we prayed, but there were more questions than answers. Should we do this? Do we do that? Do we even need to do anything at all?

And we were buffeted with thoughts of what people would think. We are not proud of this, but this was forefront in our minds. What would the coach think? What do we tell our friends? Will the other players make fun of him? Will they think we are bad parents if we don't insist that he play, or bad parents if we do?

On Wednesday Jonathan spoke with the coach who is always understanding when a player wants to quit. Football is not for everyone, he is fond of saying; but when he said this to Jonathan, he also told him to go home and sleep on it.

Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday evening.

On Thursday morning Jonathan got ready for school. I don't know what to do, he said.

Later that morning Joe and I were talking on the phone. Joe was worried that, at this point, if Jonathan stayed on the team it would be because he was pressured into it. We thought back to the beginning of summer: Jonathan started working out with the team at our suggestion; when he expressed doubts a few weeks later, we encouraged him to continue until the scrimmage; after the scrimmage he was quiet, but we told him the hard part was over and that things would get easier.

And as we talked we realized that all along Jonathan had been a good son; he had listened to us and had given football a try . . . again and again. He didn't just decide out of the blue that he didn't like it; he had been telling us all along.

At that point Joe and I did what we should have done several days earlier: we surrendered and stopped trying to make things work out the way we thought they should. And in surrendering we found our way out of that wasteland. We finally listened to what Jonathan (and God) had been trying to tell us, and nothing else mattered. Nothing.

I immediately texted Jonathan: Jona-baby, Dad and I want you to know that whatever you decide will be 100% okay. All will be fine. We love you.

He turned in his jersey that afternoon.

Jonathan now spends his afternoons adhering to a workout he created to get ready for basketball because, really, that is where his true passion is found; his heart beats in rhythm with the bounce of a basketball and the sound of squeaky sneakers on the gym floor is music to his ears.

He is happy. We are happy.

And it's all good.


Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

My nephews were baseball boys. Their dad, my brother, works for the MLB. They really, really wanted to play football, but their dad wouldn't allow it until HS (he played in HS and got a full ride football scholarship).

Each one, in turn, signed up for football, but only one played all four years. The other two played a year or two then stuck with basketball and baseball.

(They both got baseball scholarships to college.)

Too often, I think kids are pressured into doing things to please their parents. It sounds like your son was hoping to ignite a passion, and when that didn't happen it weighed him down until it broke you all a bit.

Sometimes we're best off doing what's best for us without worrying about others. Easier said than done!

I'm so glad you're at peace with this. There are much bigger worries in the world, but somehow things like this weigh so heavily.

It's hard to be a mom.

Dianne K said...

Maria- I was wondering what had happened when you mentioned it a week or so ago. Isn't waiting the kids out the hardest part of being a parent?!

I am glad to hear all is good for everyone and that Jonathan made the decision that was best for him. Enjoy seeing the picture of him playing basketball!

Anonymous said...

I have tried to push CSP into doing so many things that he simply did not want to do. I think I try to live the childhood I did not have through him. In the end, his likes and dislikes are exactly that, his likes and dislikes. I think he is a great kid whether he plays football or beats on a drum or not. And the same goes for yours!!


tiziana said...

L'unica cosa veramente giusta è lasciare che siano i ragazzi a decidere quello che vogliono fare. Anche a Chiara era successa la stessa cosa con il Karate.
Anni di questo sport, vittorie, soddisfazioni, tutti che le dicevano quanto era brava, una vera alla fine dell'anno scolastico e sportivo l'abbiamo vista davvero stanca. Quando ha ripreso gli allenamenti, dopo un po' ci ha detto che non se la sentiva più di continuare così e, sinceramente, abbiamo capito subito la sua difficoltà e labbiamo lasciata scegliere in tranquillità.
Naturalmente continua ad andare a cavallo perchè è questo che le piace fare di più in assoluto e non ci rinuncerebbe per nessun motivo.
Lei è felice. Noi siamo felici.