Friday, July 19, 2013

opportunities to lose...

My daughter doesn't handle losing well.

At all.

Any lofty idea of a Friday-night-family-game-night would last about five(?) minutes in our house.  But the second my kid would realize she wouldn't win?  Everything would be downhill from there.  Whining, stomping, crying and complaining, quitting.

You get the picture.

In all honesty, I don't think we have been those parents who let their kid win at every game.  But on the other hand, we also haven't been the parents who have given her lots of opportunities to lose, either.

So naturally, we're sitting around thinking, How can we get our child comfortable with losing?  (ha!)  Probably not the most popular parenting technique, I realize, but I want my children to know they're not going to win every time.  Life has alot of struggles and defeats, and I'm doing you a disservice as a parent if I don't introduce you to that fact now, right?

Well, that's when the idea of signing her up for soccer camp appeared.   Because in athletics, you win and you lose.  Sometimes you make a great play.  Many times you don't.  But you keep playing the game, right?

It seemed like a great opportunity to teach her to lose.  (and to win, of course...)

So I, being the loving parent that I am, signed my kid up for a soccer camp ranging from ages 5-15, making my child one of the youngest and smallest there.

And the application didn't say that any previous soccer experience was necessary, but when I arrived the first day and my kid was the only one without shin guards and full-out soccer gear, um, I got the picture.

(hey, I thought I was doing good to have found some used cleats at a consignment shop the day before!)

Caroline was SO excited to go to camp, but I could also tell her fears about her own alopecia were surfacing as she'd think about it, too.  "Are the kids going to like me?  Can I wear my wig there, mom?"  :(

The few days before soccer camp started, she actually came down with some type of sore throat and fever bug.  I was SOOO close to keeping her home the first day of camp, but at her begging and insisting, we decided we'd let her give it a try.

Well, can you see where this is going?

I take a BALD little girl with a sore throat onto the field, acting very lethargic.

It wasn't long before I heard "Why can't she run?" from a boy yelling to the coach in reference to Caroline's lack of energy.

I see my daughter sitting alone over to the side, pulling up grass on the field with her head down.

Naturally, the coaches weren't going to push her.

Do I tell them she's got alopecia, and not cancer?  I thought.  That she IS a little sick, but not sick in the sense that they *think* she is?  On the camp application, I had given them a heads' up on the health section in hopes that alopecia wouldn't be an issue, but the first day was proving to be awkward for everyone on many fronts.

Marc and I decided to just let it go and keep watching.  We were the only two parents out there anyways, and I was already feeling a bit out of place and didn't want to be the "helicopter parent" that swooshes in at the slightest problem.

However, at a water break when I heard one of the boys say loudly in front of Caroline, "That's a GIRL??  I thought that was a BOY!", you better believe I instinctively flew up off of my bleacher and walked over to the young man.

"Caroline, did you meet this boy yet?"  I, the Mama Bear, tried to remain calm and mature as I turned to him.  "This is my daughter, Caroline.  And what is your name?"

He was pretty shy at that moment, and I think he got the hint.  No more problems from then on.

Then it got to drills like this one, where each child would dribble and attempt to shoot a goal.

All my kid basically knew about soccer was how to kick a ball to each other, so she literally had NO idea it was a "contact" sport.  When it got to be her turn to shoot, she pointed at the goalie to move out of the way for her so she could score!!!  ha!   I heard her walking up to the coaches and saying, "What's defense?  What's dribbling?"  Way to go, baby girl!  Make 'em teach you.

As you can see, her technique and aim was a little lacking.  :)  (I love the look on her coach's face at this moment...she's thinking, what do I DO with this one?)

Oh my gosh, it's HARD to watch your kid fail!  Caroline has just always been the child who's ahead on every milestone, intelligent as all get-out, and she's currently at a reading level of a 2nd-3rd grader.  (before entering kindergarten!)  But I just kept reminding myself, THIS is why I signed her up.  She needs to know what it is to NOT excel, to have to work and practice to get something.  Oh man, Marc and I were terribly uncomfortable watching it all unfold.  She wasn't handling it so well, partly because she didn't feel well, too.

However, there was a redeeming story through that first day.

In Caroline's small group of 5-7 year olds, there were only two girls: she and a girl named Rylie, who was one year older and obviously very gifted at playing sports.  The two became instant friends (see above), and as the only girls, they began looking out for each other.

At one point a boy kicked my Caroline's ball away, which made her begin crying.  It's okay!, I wanted to shout across the field, go kick it out of HIS control!  (ha ha- as much as I try, I guess I AM that parent)

But instead, her heart was crumpled.

And then in that moment, I watched sweet little Rylie run over to my daughter and wrap her arms around her with the biggest hug.  I watched as Rylie encouraged her, and Caroline got back into the game.  I thought, Thank you, God, for this sweet, sweet provision.

"So, how'd it go?" I asked Caroline as we were walking to the car at the end of the first (excruciating) day of camp.

"It was SO, SO fun, Mom!" she replied.

Really???  Did she just see what I just saw???  Well.  Well, okay!  I was simultaneously quite speechless and so utterly relieved at that moment.

"And I can't wait to go back tomorrow," she added.


The rest of the days were a blast to her.  (I think mostly because she had made a friend to share it with.)

You know, I'm so proud of all that my baby girl learned this week, many things well beyond the game of soccer.

And thank you, God, for your sweet provision of a friend for Caroline.
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  1. An awesome story!
    Would that we would be willing to come alongside those who are hurting and failing with encouragement and friendship.


  2. You go Caroline!! Nanny is very proud of you. It will get better next time. I'm glad you have a new friend.

  3. This post made me cry, and yell, and take in breath sharply. What a journey in just one day. What a lesson and what wonderful parents God has given your sweet Caroline!