Monday, July 10, 2006

"Ashley, you're probably going to lose your first game, and it's all because your mother doesn't know where to turn!"

Poor Ashley. Poor Ashley's mother. A man I presumed to be her father was on his cell phone, demanding to know where Ashley was. Behind him, our local 3v3 soccer tournament was beginning, with handpicked teams ready to square off and show their soccer prowess.

What makes a parent one of those parents? How do you slide from the parent whose role is primarily driving to practice and making sure the kids have their water bottles to one whose life is dictated by their child's win/loss record?

There's a siren's song that calls to parents when their children show potential. While the sane part of you is saying, "Let's be realistic," there's another voice saying, "She might be the next Mia Hamm!" You get a charge out of watching your child play well and hearing other parents say, "Whose daughter is that? Wow, she's really good." You share your child's joy when she wins, and you wipe her tears when she doesn't.

But how do you keep from making her dreams your dreams? Or, how do you ensure that you're not forcing your dreams to become her dreams?

I wish I had the answer. Certainly, for every Ashley's father there's another parent who keeps his cool and tells his daughter that she'll get there when she gets there, and there will be other tournaments in the future. For every parent who continually lectures his daughter on improving her game, there's one who says, "OK" when his daughter says "I don't think I want to play this fall."

As for my 7-year-old, her team looked fantastic in its first three games. They made it to the championship, where they lost in sudden death overtime. One of our players accidentally kicked the opponent's ball while standing within the goal circle, giving the opponent an automatic goal. There were lots of tears afterwards.

Except for my kid. She said, "It's OK. I had a lot of fun. Remember, it's only a game."

That's my girl.