29 January, 2017

Parenting in the midst of sport

 Yesterday was another long day of wrestling, with complicated logistics in travel. 

Our youngest son pinning an opponent in a cradle hold:
one arm behind the neck, the other under his knees.
We were all up before the sun came up (before 6am, actually), though I didn't leave until 8am. It turned into a 16-hour day for David and our two oldest boys, including about four hours of travel for them. It might have been three hours less than that, but the school bus had a flat battery when they went to leave and it took some time to sort that out. The wrestlers ended up coming home by train and David, as the driver, waited on-base for a rescue vehicle to get them started again. They ended up arriving back at school at 10pm, within one minute of each other. Testimony to how impressive the Tokyo train system is, even on a Saturday night.

We were split again across two venues, but I felt as though things were better balanced with one parent at each meet. I miss the high school wrestling: it is more exciting and skilful, however I am glad that I could be home at 4pm, not 10pm. The other big thing I am glad about yesterday, is that I had some sterling teachable moments with our youngest son.

Someone asked me the other day if I get my blog posts passed by my sons before I post them. I don't. If I did, I'd never post anything! Not because they wouldn't allow me to post what I write, but there simply isn't time to get them to read all that I write. 

No, my strategy is a bit simpler. They all know the address of my blog and I know they can look it up at any time. Our eldest son, especially, likes to read it. So, I work hard not to post things that I think would embarrass them. Just an extension of the way I try to respect the privacy of my friends and other family members. I assume that they could read anything I put up here and endeavour not to write things that, as far as I can guess, would embarrass them.

So writing about my parenting yesterday is a bit tricky. I'll try a less specific angle.

Being present at our sons' sporting events often presents golden opportunities for speaking into their lives. More so in wrestling than in track and field or cross-country. Mostly because of the type of sport it is and the way competitions are conducted.

You cannot hide on a wrestling mat. It is you and your opponent. You aren't in a group of 100 running a race through the countryside, most of the time out of the view of spectators, you aren't even in a group of eight on a track. In wrestling you are in full view of a bunch of spectators, and there are no teammates to blame if things go wrong out there. It is also very personal. Losing is hard to take.

Additionally, you don't just have one event, you have to do this two, three, or more times in a day. So if you lose, you often have to pick yourself up emotionally and be able to go back onto the mat and do it again. With meets every Saturday for a few Saturdays, you also have little break to pick yourself up again before you have to go back and do another tournament again, often against the same opponents. That can be mentally challenging, especially if you have lost.

So being present as a parent at these things presents a great opportunity to walk beside our boys and help them deal with emotionally charged situations. To help them deal with adversity in an objective-type situation where the rules are clear and help them to find the strength in themselves to go on. When things don't go your way, it is easy to want to quit. I helped a boy not quit yesterday. He came away feeling much better than he did at the start of the day. Stronger as a wrestler, and as a person, I hope. It felt like a parenting triumph.

I vividly remember another tough day when our eldest son was in 8th grade, his second year of wrestling. His last meet of that season was an emotionally tough meet too: http://mmuser.blogspot.jp/2013/02/end-of-another-wrestling-season.html It's great to see how he's grown in the years since then.

I had many conversations with people yesterday, most of them short! Wrestling spectating doesn't lend itself to long, in-depth conversations. However I had two separate deeper conversations with two dads. Both of them appreciating that their middle schoolers are learning life lessons by participating in sport, and in wrestling particularly. All sorts of things can be learnt, for example:
  • life doesn't always reward participation with awards
  • failure happens and how to move on from that
  • how to persevere in difficult circumstances and against all odds
  • respecting other people, even when they beat you
  • having respect for your body's limits
  • discovering that even when you think you can't handle any more, you often can
At last week's meet a friend saw a mum wearing a t-shirt that said, "My son never loses: he either wins or he learns." We loved it. What a great motto for wrestling, indeed a great attitude to take into life in general.

Wrestling is permeating our lives deeply at present, with two meets every Saturday plus this week and last we also have mid-week duals. I'm really glad for these opportunities to walk alongside our guys while they take on these challenges. 

I'm also praying for the strength to carry on. Yesterday was exhausting. This afternoon I napped for 1 ½ hrs, and I'm glad for that. It's only three more weeks and it will all be over. There'll be mixed emotions then too, I know!

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