This weekend blew the big one. Maria had a basketball tournament all weekend long; Mario had one on Sunday. I wish we would’ve had both kids tourneys this weekend so we could’ve been done with basketball for the season.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Maria isn’t a superstar at basketball. She just started playing last year, and was on the fence about whether to play this year. She’s always looked at it as more of a sport to play in the winter in order to be around friends than a sport to play because she absolutely loved the game. We’ve talked about that on numerous occasions – if she wants to get really good at basketball she’s going to need to practice like a mad woman. However, she really has no desire to practice like a mad woman so it is what it is, right? She goes to each practice, tries her hardest, gets to hang with her friends, and goes to the games. Take it for what it is.
Throughout the season, she has not played as much as her girlfriends. She’s been fairly ambivalent about it because … “it is what it is” to continue the theme above. But in the last couple of weeks, it’s gotten more under her skin. I’m sure it’s because another girlfriend started complaining about not playing as much as some other girls. I talked with her about letting it go since it was near the end of the season; besides, she didn’t think she’d play again anyway.
Maria looked completely dejected at her last tournament game; they were down 28 to 6 and she was still on the bench. It broke my heart as a mom. She’d always been happy go lucky during these games, rooting on her teammates and sitting on the sideline smiling. But this last game, she didn’t break a smile once. After the game, she came over to me and mouthed tersely “let’s go, now.” I asked her what was wrong. Dumb question from me but I didn’t know what else to say. Ri looked away and explained as we walked out of the gym: “I’m not part of this team. I can’t play well. They told the girls not to throw it to me. I just want to leave.”
The mama bear in me wanted to go up to everyone of her teammates and the coaches and demand an explanation. The rational woman in me knew there was more to this and that confronting anyone right after the game would not be a good idea. Maria made it an easy choice for me because she just stormed out of the building to the car. We both sat in silence as we pulled out of the parking lot. Maria asked for my phone. I threw it back to her in anger – not anger at her so much as anger at the situation. I hate leaving a game like that – not wrapping up and saying goodbye to the adults and the kids. I should have made her walk back into the building and say goodbye to everyone – mad or not.
Maria asked what was the matter with me. I chirped “what do you think is the matter? I’m upset at the way that ended.”
Ri sat silent for a minute but then began to talk. “I was just upset, mom, because I feel like I let my teammates down. I feel like the coaches think I’m the worst player ever because they tell my teammates not to throw to me. I’m just upset about the season and not being good.”
Why doesn’t someone just rip my heart out of my chest and stomp on it? It would probably feel better than how I felt driving down the highway hearing this from Maria. I hate these parental moments with such a passion.
I can’t remember how I responded to Maria except that it brought out a whole conversation about basketball, coaches, sports, life. Yeah, we got real philosophical because that’s how mama works in those situations. I asked her how much she loved bball. She responded “not much.” I asked her how many times she went outside to shoot layups and free throws. She responded “not much.” I asked her how much she enjoyed being with her friends during practice. She responded “a lot.” I tried to help her put it all in perspective. This was not a sport she loved through and through. She didn’t put much effort into it outside of practice and games. And that was perfectly fine. But that also meant that she might not get as much playing time as other girls on the court. The harder piece to tackle was her opinion of self based on the comments made to her by her friends and her coaches. Like I said earlier, I was torn between calling up the coach and giving her a piece of my mind and just letting it be. Coaches are going to have different personalities. There are going to be some that are super supportive and some that are not. But we are dealing with sixth-grade girls. They need positive reinforcement; they need encouragement and support. I understand when they make a bad play, coaching. But coaching them in a supportive manner. I just don’t fathom how a coach can call some girls “good players” thereby implying there are “bad players.”
I reinforced to Maria she cannot take what others say – be it a friend, another adult, or even a teacher – to heart and let it determine who she is as a person. She needs to believe in herself and trust in herself. I can’t be there all the time when a coach or a teacher or a friend says something hurtful to her so I need to arm her with the ability to deal with those situations herself.
It’s hard as hell to be a parent, especially when you’re dealing with a pre-pubescent girl. You remember how it was to be that age, you have major flashbacks to the hell that it was at times. And you want to just avoid it all for your daughter. But you can’t. You got to help her as best as you can to move through it and find her strength. I so hope that’s what happens for her.
As her mother, I will reinforce how wonderful she is, how I love her dreams, how she cares, how she wants the best in life, how she loves new experiences, how she has to believe in herself, and how she should treat others the way she wants to be treated.
In the end, I just want Ri to be able to get through these situations with a healthy attitude and confidence. I know she’s not always going to be happy and filled with joy – that’s just not life – but I want her to be stable and confident enough that when times aren’t particularly happy, she can weather through them and come out upright and stable, just like she has learned on those 80’s roller skates…..