Truth In A Missed Goal Or Two

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 It’s Mother’s Day. And it’s an incredibly rainy, gray, and unseasonably cold Sunday in May. My secret wish as soon as I wake up, which is pretty consistent with most moms (if they dare to be real) is that both of my girls’ travel soccer games would be cancelled this afternoon. This act of God would allow for me to unselfishly melt into my bed with a book and a cup of tea for the entire afternoon post the baked apples drowning in butter, and scrambled eggs infused with garlic (?) that my 11 year old so lovingly prepared and embellished on her own.  But today…no games were cancelled. Even despite my attempts to text another mom right before leaving in hopes her answer would be along with a smily-face emoji,  “Game was rained out, Happy Mother’s Day, no need to come!”  I arrived at the game, 40 min. later and made sure to make eye contact with the moms I knew and didn’t know. The same thought ran through our minds. Here we are…the moms. Standing in Disney Parkas, under oversized Costco umbrellas, our cups containing a warm beverage (or not?) in the rain, hoping that the refs would cut us a break and possibly end each half a bit early.  But instead, we buck up, we hold our heads high, we smile, and internally assure ourselves that this is our role. This is where we are meant to be and WANT to be. I love watching my girls play. They’re fast, strong, and when they laugh with their friends, high five each other after goals, it makes me internally reference the Trace Adkins song… “You’re gonna miss this when it’s gone.”  But on this day…I’m feeling a little selfish. And I’m going to own it. Because living your truth means sharing what feels vulnerable and that which could be ultimately judged by others. And I’ve learned to be okay with the subtle judgment. It fuels me to keep going and to keep owning, and to keep being, well, just me!

    My Stella is a goalie. It was her position of choice early in the season and honestly, it surprised me. Her nature, like mine, is very self-protective at times. She does things she knows she can’t screw up too badly especially when in the spotlight of an audience.I was proud of her when she declared her choice of position early in the season. Its moments like these in my parenting that I realize through the choice of my daughter to do something a bit risky, it somehow informs me to grow internally. I teach her, she teaches me. We learn together, it’s a dance. And the tune, it’s organic, yet always beautiful. 

    While driving north on the parkway,  listening to her favorite soundtrack, “The Greatest Showman,” she shared with me that she didn’t want to play goalie today. I was surprised and asked her to explain. Her reasoning was legitimate and well though out. “Mom, it’s likely I’ll miss a goal or two in any game I play. But in this game, since it’s raining, the ball will probably slip out of my hands more than usual. Plus, my goalie gloves might make things extra slippery.”  My knee jerk reaction was to encourage her to play and understand that it’s all part of the game. It won’t be the only rainy soccer game she spends in the goal. Instead, I asked her what she was really feeling about this. Her response, surprised me. “It’s not just slippery gloves mom.  I just don't want to let down my entire team.”  There it was. I had a choice to make.  Instead of me flying in with my big silver-lining crayon, I chose to honor her self-awareness instead. “Stella, talk to your coach and tell him what you just told me. This is called living your truth, speaking your truth and recognizing that your voice matters.” She took a deep breath and for the slightest of moments I felt that maybe I just made a good, mom-parenting call with that one. While I placed an invisible gold star sticker on my chest, she sat with her choice for a bit and we didn’t revisit it. I left the ball in her goal, so to speak.

    I watched her run to the field with quick neon flashes of Nike cleats because of course we were late. Her ponytail flying from side to side,  swinging her green soccer bag she was so proud to carry and wondered what her choice would be. And just like that, she threw on the orange jersey and planted herself in goal. Throughout the first half she played, She saved a couple of good ones, but certainly lost a few slippery ones. I saw the shaky shoulders that followed the goals scored on her which represented the tears she was trying to hold back. Instead of standing on the sidelines yelling “shake it off Stella”, I instead chose to honor her truth. I wanted her to sit in the decision that SHE made. Instead of telling her coach of her fear, she chose to embrace it and gamble what it might mean. And I wondered if maybe her gamble was a result of her being willing to share her fear of slippery gloves and ball situation with me. This fear of hers, she was able to get out somewhere around exit 109 on the parkway. And for that reason, she didn’t sit with it, harbor it, carry it onto the field or into the goal. She owned it and she looked at it from different angles before making her decision. You see, for us as adults those decisions aren’t a big deal in our heads. But boil the years down to a nine year old’s perspective and the formula of life experience, age, emotional capacity, and circumstance in question can create a storm of of feeling unsettled and insecure. And it’s our job as the teacher, parent, grandparent, and caregiver to remind the little people and not-so-fun older people (aka teens) in our life to live their truth, speak their truth, and act on their truth. It’s theirs, only theirs, and if they can’t learn to own it when they’re younger as they prepare for a soccer game, how will they own it in a business meeting someday with a new boss who enforces all kinds of uncomfortable and unfair changes. 

    We lost the game, she didn't seem to care. We drove home, both soaked to the bone, heat cranked up. She's  curled up cute as ever in the passenger seat under a pink afghan and she sang without inhibition every word to every song that came on the “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack. I asked her…”You know all these words? Why didn’t you sing on the way to the game?” Her response… “I was thinking about the slippery ball.” And just like that, she’s back to age 9, back to anxiety free living and fun living.  What’s my point in all of this? Go beyond listening to your kids from the outside. Be brave enough to peel a few layers deeper and challenge them to speak their truth in such a way that someday they will be singing about it.  And if you’re lucky, it might just happen on Mother’s Day so that you can learn a life lesson too.