And to his credit, he wasn’t faking it. I could see the raw skin, what was probably the start of some blisters on the palms of his hands, the result of letting his ego get the better of him in the 75 MPH batting cage the night before. I looked at his hands and I knew they must have hurt. And then I said, “I think you’re just going to have to suck it up and play. Your team is counting on you.”
I could see him tear up, wondering how he was going to get through it, and I tried to console him. “Come on. Put on your batting gloves. Once you get there, and the adrenaline kicks in, I bet you’ll be fine. Plus, it’s only one game. Then you can rest your hands.”
This is the story of my life. Being the bad cop in my children’s life. When I became a mother, I thought my role was to be my child’s soft spot to land. To hold them when they cried and to kiss away the boo boos and to comfort them when they were in distress. And I do and have done all those things. But what no one tells you is that sometimes you also have to be the bad guy. The drill sergeant. The one to push your child to push themselves. And never in a million years did I think my parenting philosophy would be, “Suck it up.”
It’s not always easy to know when to push your child and when not to. When my son woke up the morning of the school talent show not feeling well, I let him skip out on doing the number he was scheduled for. Although he wasn’t feel great, he probably could have done it. But, whether he opted out due to illness or stage fright, I knew he regretted it. So when he enrolled in a music school and joined a rock band, and then professed stage fright a few weeks before the big show and wanted to quit, I wasn’t having any of it. “Your band is like your team. They are counting on you. It’s too late. You’re just going to have to suck it up and deal with it.” So he stuck with it. Kept practicing with his band, and a few weeks later he went onto play live in front of a pretty large-sized crowed. And he killed it. And not only that, he had a great time doing so.
Of course, sometimes when you push because you have their best interest at heart, it doesn’t always work out like you planned. When my son professed his reluctance to try out for Little League this past year for fear of not making it, I minimized his concerns. “Come on, if you don’t try out and you see all your friends playing, you’re going to feel lousy. Just try.”
And so he did. And guess what? He didn’t make it. He was devastated. And I felt terrible. At the same time, I understood it was a necessary life lesson. Sometimes life doesn’t go your way and you have to learn to deal with it. So after we dried his tears, we talked and he agreed to play in the lower level for one more year. He ended up on a team with some friends. And he ended up being kind of a “team captain” by nature of the fact that he was one of the older kids. I’d like to say that his team did great, but to be honest, they had a mixed bag of a year. However, he made the best of things and ended up playing really well. So well, in fact, that he he ended up playing in that All-Star Game.
“Mom, what if I can’t do it?” he asked, as we drove to the game.
“Luke, you’re just going to have to do your best. It’s all you can do at this point.”
When we got to the game, he ran off to warm up with his team, and I took my seat, nervous about whether or not he’d be able to keep it together for the game. I shouldn’t have been. He did great, and his team ended up winning. After the game he ran over to me, grinning.
“Congratulations, honey! How are your hands doing? Did they hurt during the game?” I asked.
“Oh, them? They’re OK. They hurt a little but I just sucked it up. And we won!”
Yes. We did win.
This is an original post for JerseyMomsBlog by Christina Surretsky.