Given Permission to be Ordinary
I just got my oldest child's login for middle school. I won't lie, I am at a loss as to how we got to middle school so quickly. I still remember carrying her home on the frigid January day in 2005. I remember the first few weeks of raising that colicky baby and the many firsts my firstborn had. I had visions. I had dreams. I had expectations.
Expectations are something that fail me time and time again, yet as a human I fall into the trap of expecting things to happen. In my life, in my husbands life and my children's lives.
When Simone was 6 months old, I eagerly enrolled her in swim lessons. She had long arms and legs and her feet rivaled Michael Phelps. I was certain by kindergarten we would be clocking her times in the pool at swim meets but after the second lesson where my baby squealed and screamed as if she was in pain I was offered my money back--not to come. This could have been foreshadowing of what was to come but instead of being swayed, I continued to have expectations for my brilliant, gifted child who was walking by 7 months.
Years went by and as her friends met milestones such as riding bikes or swinging on swings, my oldest was content to read and follow along on her own path. She didn't want to swim nor did she want to dance. In fact soccer, TBall, field hockey, none of it was for her. I kept trying, she just didn't feel it. It wasn't in her. Still I felt the pressure it seems every American parent has to make sure their child was playing sports, that they weren't sitting sedentary and that they were growing from that team mentality.
I watched as my friends continued to sign their children up for sports and when Simone was nearing second grade and friends spoke of travel teams dance teams and potential for college scholarships, I wondered what I had done wrong? No matter how much I longed for this life for my child when she got out on the field she looked like a fish out of water. The fact that her two younger sisters both found sports to be easy and fun didn't make matters any easier for she or myself.
All this time I criticized myself for not being able to have a child that was going to change the world through her athletic prowess, in reality, I wanted all my children to change the world. So many of us dream of it while we walk the world expecting the future generations and in reality, its not attainable. The days of weekly recreation programs are now programs that encompass drafts and competition, its not always what we remember as children and recreation leagues turn so quickly to travel. Though not all area competition ready it also impacts them in ways we may not initially understand. Socially it changes their lives. Emotionally you watch as so many children build pressures upon themselves that we did not hold for ourselves until middle or high school. Why couldn't I see what that its okay to be ordinary. That not all children will be extraordinary and in the ordinary we have purpose.
My oldest child struggled for years to TRY to be an athlete she wasn't. Instead of celebrating who she was made to be I wanted her to conform, to fit in. She went to all the games and made it to all the practices but still seemed to flail about finding her position on the field. As she flailed, I failed. I didn't listen to her, I didn't focus on who she was until this year.
This year my daughter had the experience of two coaches, a husband and wife and they loved my girl, not for her athletic ability but for her. As I drove her to practices and prayed she would get better and find her groove, she tried but just couldn't seem to get it. One day as I cringed when my girl was on the court, the sister of one of the coaches let me know every team needs a Simone. I thought she was being kind but then I reconsidered. She was an ordinary child. She had strengths in academics. She was weak in sports. She was kind. She was the first to worry about how all her teammates were doing and as an onlooker she was able to see exactly who Simone was in just games on the field.
As I worked through the online paperwork I asked my daughter what sports she wanted to try? She stormed of crying shouting that she's not good at sports. When we sat I dug in. She wanted the people she knew from her sports team but knew she wasn't an athlete. She saw that she was ordinary in sports and needed me to support her and help her accept it. My own dreams had been pushed on her for years and here we stood as an adolescent staring the fact that ordinary is okay in the face. After a long talk she shared how she like the social aspect of teams and sports but not the competition for fear of failure. I reminded her all feelings are okay but no need to fear. She's not going to try any middle school sports but this little adolescent came up with the idea of wanting to be a team manager...because she still loves those teams and all they stand for. I don't know if they have middle school managers or if they do if the position was taken but in choosing to see the beauty in ordinary she's found somewhere she can fit.
As we as parents dream, we have to keep our own dreams in check and live in our children's reality. For me, allowing my kids to be ordinary is my current reality and there is nothing wrong with that.