On a recent morning, as I was dropping my second-grader off at school, he asked why he was on a single-A little league baseball team when “all” his friends were on double-A teams. I thought for a moment, and then told him the truth.
“The ones who made double-A must play baseball better than you do right now. And many of your buddies are right with you in single-A.”
Silence. I could see him in my rearview mirror, head suddenly tilted away from the rest of us, eyes welling up with tears. There would be no quick drop-off this morning.
I parked and let the other kids file out. He just sat there frozen in that position.
I scrunched up my long body, weaseled my way into the back seat, and rested my hand on his thigh. “I’m sorry, sweetie. You thought things would be different, didn’t you?”
Tears rolled down his cheeks. He cried for a couple of minutes.
“You know I love you if you’re on the single-A team, the double-A team, or the Z team!” I smiled at him, as his eyes met mine.
Then out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed something yellow. An old banana peel, hanging limply over the side of the hole intended for a cup. It was brown and gross.
“I love you even if you leave banana peels in the back of the car to rot,” I added.
“Listen,” I continued, now that we were connected. “You have the ability to get good at any sport you’d like. A month ago you’d never thrown a football. Now you’re out playing every recess. If you want to get good at something, you practice. That’s how our brains and bodies work. What we do, we get better at.”
I grew up in Oakland in an era when parenting just kind of happened. My mom loved me tons, and always said I could grow up to be “anything I wanted,” but it was never clear to me how, exactly, I would make that happen.
Now, it seems that the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, with parents watching their children’s every move and scheduling every minute of their days.
Somewhere between Free to Be You and Me and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother lies the sweet spot of parenting: that place where we can help our children dream big, and give them the tools to make those dreams come true — and mourn the loss of those that don’t. There is a connection to build, there are limits to be set, and feelings to be shared.
Alone, the job can feel overwhelming, even daunting. Together, we can learn, laugh and cry, as we work our way toward that sweet spot, while, at the same time, enjoying the ride.
I look forward to sharing my thinking in Kid You Not and hearing yours as well.
Tosha Schore is the tell-it-like-it-is voice behind ToshaSchore.com, where she teaches parents how to connect with their kids and handle those rip-out-your-hair parenting moments. She is also mom to three, a writer, and a certified trainer of Parenting by Connection. If you have a question for Schore or for one of our other parenting columnists, email Express editor Robert Gammon at [email protected]. Schore’s columns will appear in Kid You Not once a month.