When Max was little, he was full of so much energy. I found myself chasing him all over the place. My mom said that my brother was the same way, so she put him in sports. I quickly turned to soccer for Max. All of that running and stimulation was so good for him. I loved that he was getting his energy out in a constructive way.
All of our children have their own strengths. I quickly noticed with Max that he was very athletic and caught onto things quickly. One day he got on his bike without training wheels and just took off. He is a natural athlete in whatever sport he is playing. I keep reminding myself of this as I write this, and you will see why.
The years of soccer flew by. Seth was the coach of most of Max’s house soccer teams. Every time Seth asked who wanted to play goalie, all the kids said, “Not it.” One day, in frustration, Seth put Max in goal. Max saved every shot, and the team actually won! When other kids got their turn, Max found himself frustrated with the goals being let in. He went from making the goals to stopping the goals. He dove, jumped, and threw himself all over the place like it was nothing, and I watched him in total awe.
Years of soccer, trainings, tournaments, and camps brings us to today. He made a really good travel team this year that plays all over the northeast, and Seth (dad) and I were seeing his lack of enthusiasm. 12 years later and his interest for soccer didn’t seem to be there anymore.
I found myself coaching my husband through this transition that I was observing before my eyes. Seth coached Max for many years and was very interested and invested in the whole process. He was already talking to colleges interested in recruiting Max, when Max began to tell us he didn’t want to play college soccer. I reminded Seth many times that this was about Max and not about Seth. The goalkeeper scholarship that we saw in his future was quickly disappearing.
Let’s jump into that line that I just wrote. Soccer is about Max and not about Seth. It took Seth a long time to come to grips with the fact that what Seth used to want for Max, and what Max wanted for Max are two different things. I have had to talk to Seth and his dad about focusing on what Max wants for Max and not what they want for Max.
It doesn’t matter how much time or money that we invested into soccer. This is about what Max wants to do with his life. I really want my kids to explore their own passions and their own paths. I am just their tour guide in this life. I will always be there for them and will do my best to guide them towards what is best for them. I am looking at what is best for them, and not what is best for me. Max has asked me what career I expect him to do. I make sure to tell him that this is for him to figure out (I will help). This is not about making me happy, by being a doctor or a lawyer, for example. This is about Max and my daughters following their own path. I’m not saying I want Max to be a doctor or a lawyer. I want him to discover sports, a college, a career, and a wife that are best for him.
My husband began to wrap his mind around the fact that Max’s interest in soccer was waning. I saw him begin to shift and I was very proud of him. He noticed that the zest in Max’s eyes for soccer was gone. He noticed that he was making him go to practices and games and that Max was just going through the motions. We were so happy that he was being physical, but we saw the lack of enthusiasm clear as day.
As you have read before, Max asked us to play football for many years. My response was always the same, “I love your brain too much.” I spoke to a Buffalo Bills football player who told me that he would let his son play football once he got to high school, and that line always stayed with me. As Max grew and got bigger and stronger, I started to change my mind. It wasn’t just about me. Max’s dad had to agree to let him switch to football too. Unfortunately, school soccer and school football are the same season. I told Max that this was his year to give it a try. I also told him that if he sat the bench at football instead of playing goalie for soccer that I wasn’t going to be a happy mom. It was time to take a leap of faith and let him fly and take risks.
Max started football and I saw him change right before my eyes. His zest, enthusiasm, passion and motivation were all back. I saw the fire in his eyes for football. He was talking about it all the time and was asking to get to practice really early. All the signs were there. Max LOVES football and is having a fantastic time. All of his athletic training and abilities are being poured into football. He just told me that he wishes football was all year, and that made my mama heart so happy. It was a good leap of faith to take. I pray every game for all the players safety, and I also watch them all having a blast together doing an awesome job as a team. Max also tells me all the time how awesome his coach is. He says their success is because of the plays that his coach calls. He says they just execute the plays.
Next came the time for Max to tell us he didn’t want to play on the awesome travel soccer team that he made. The travel soccer team season begins after football is over so he could have done both. Seth had already done a great job preparing himself for this conversation. I had spent so much time talking to Seth, and coaching Seth that I hadn’t spent time talking to myself. I thought I was totally okay with this transition. Seth asked me to help him word the email to let them know that Max wasn’t playing soccer this year. I couldn’t do it. I got in my deer in headlights place and froze. I walked upstairs to Max and asked him if he was sure about this decision. He didn’t flinch. He was sure. I told Seth I needed one more day. With tears in my eyes, I asked Max the next day if he was positive he didn’t want to play soccer. He was sure. I cried on my way downstairs to tell Seth that he could send the email. It felt so final to me. I didn’t know I was going to have a hard time with this. I had known this for a while. I didn’t know making this official was going to be so hard for me. The travel team is so gracious and told Max that he could return at any time. He has trained so hard and had gotten so good at his goalie position. However, I knew that because Max is a good athlete, he can take these skills to other sports.
A lot of the football players do wrestling in the winter. Max was now asking to try wrestling. Doing a school sport has been a totally different experience for him vs. doing a travel team. It connects you to the school, and to the kids on the team with you. It gives you a sense of belonging. We have to make our kids join things in school. Some kids sign up for everything, and some kids need to be pushed to sign up for something. We need to push.
Football was a giant hit and next we will venture into the world of wrestling. Max has made it very clear to Seth and I that he will be playing football for the next two years. I was feeling bad for holding him back for so long and only giving him three years of football. Feeling bad does nothing for me. All I can do is live in the moment and look forward. Looking back will only make me feel bad. Why would I want to feel bad? Us mothers are good at making ourselves feel bad. Let’s look for reasons to feel good.
Not only do I see how much Max loves football, I also see how good it is for our kids to try new things. My daughter Ella goes to high school next year. She told me she can’t wait to try out for the dance line. She has so many exciting things ahead to join in high school, and I am so thrilled for her. She is counting down. I keep telling her to try to enjoy 8th grade, but she is checked out and ready to rock in high school.
Max has taught me so many lessons. Our kids teach us so much. I didn’t realize how much our kids can be our greatest teachers!
- Don’t be afraid to try new things. It may turn out to be amazing!
- Take risks! Playing it safe isn’t the way to go. Risks bring new wonderful things into your life.
- Change is good. Same old same old can lead to boredom. Adding something new into your life can give you a new spark that you were craving and needed. New things lead to growth.
- Do something that makes you want to show up early. Max is ready to rock every day for football and always shows up so early.
- Work hard. Max worked so hard every day to earn a good spot on the team. He showed his motivation and ability.
- We can feel a lot of emotions at the same time. While I was sad to say goodbye to soccer, I was so happy to see Max excelling at a new sport.
- This is about our kids it is not about us. We got to pick our paths. I picked my sports. I picked my college. I picked my career. I picked my spouse. I chose to have children. It is our job to facilitate our children’s abilities to choose their own paths. What will make them happy? What is good for them? This isn’t about you or me.
I think this is a good time for us all to check in with our kids. I told my daughter Lillie to do cheerleading for her and not for me. I told her this is about her. I told Ella to do acting for her and not for Seth. Our kids need to know that they please us by doing things that are good for them. What brings them passion and excitement? What are they interested in? Be a good tour guide and guide them to what is best for them. Make sure that this isn’t about you and what you want for them. Just because you went to Cornell doesn’t mean your children will want to. Let’s all be good tour guides. This tour guide is thoroughly enjoying the football season. Mourning soccer and opening myself up for new experiences ahead for Max and for his parents. We go on the ride with him, and this is one fantastic ride. I am so lucky to get to be his mom. He is a great kid, and I am excited for what is ahead for him.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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