Sometimes it is really hard to see my friends’ kids’ athletic successes on my social media feed. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy for your child … truly, genuinely happy. But I can’t help but feel defeated as I scroll through post after post of “___ made the cheer squad!” and “First place finished for my boy in all 5 events of the parish track meet!” It’s especially gut-wrenching to see posts about kids who seem to naturally excel at everything they do.
Now before you think I’m a jealous, mean woman, hear me out. My kids do not excel at everything they do. In fact, neither of them has yet to find their “niche.” I have one who has the drive and determination to do well but is not very athletically gifted, and another who has the natural talent with zero self-confidence or motivation. So here we are, playing a different park sport every season, but not really gravitating to or finding true success in any of them.
I wish I could say it doesn’t bother me, but it does. Not because I feel a need to have athletic children, but because I see them comparing themselves to their peers. I hear them when they ask me why they aren’t “good” at anything. (Because let’s be honest. If you haven’t had your child in privates or some form of competitive travel team that practices hours on end per week since they were 3, your kid ain’t making the cut). And quite frankly I’m not that mom.
When my kids were little, I wanted time with them. My absolute FAVORITE thing was playing in the yard with them after work or taking long walks with them in their wagon on the weekend. I didn’t want to share those days, months, or years with sports. I wanted them to myself. Additionally, my husband is active-duty military so that means he is often gone. Sometimes for short periods and sometimes for long periods, but either way I’m on my own a lot. (And I know the limits to my own sanity). Then, just as I was starting to get them involved in ALL the things, Covid hit. And despite all the horrible parts of Covid, the one thing I truly valued about lockdown was the stillness. I LOVED those days spent in the yard or doing scavenger hunts in the neighborhood. So, when things began re-opening, I was admittedly reluctant to completely fill our schedules.
This leads me to the current day, and the self-doubt I feel every time I see one of those social media posts. I wonder if I have somehow failed them by not pushing them to find a sport and commit all their time to it. Will they never find “their thing” because I don’t have them in privates for all the things? Will they think they are less than others because they aren’t an all-star athlete? This self-doubt has become increasingly anxiety-inducing the older my kids get. But what I’ve gotten in return are some of the best evening walks with my kids. We’ve had amazing weekends exploring our great city, at the zoo, or even taking day trips to nearby cities. (Things we wouldn’t have had as much time for if we were doing travel ball or spending hours at practice multiple days a week.)
And I know my kids will find their niche. My son seems to be very musically inclined, especially with the drums. My daughter loves theater and singing and has recently decided to train for the Disney Princess 5k. So, who knows, maybe there will be another distance runner in the family. And then I remind myself that even I didn’t find my “niche” until high school. It wasn’t until I joined the cross-country team that I really found my place. Sure, I had played park ball all my life, but I never “excelled” at anything. Even as a cross-country athlete, I was average, but I had found “my team.” I had found something I genuinely enjoyed and felt part of. That’s all I really want for my kids … for them to find something they feel a part of. So, my distaste for all these social media posts doesn’t mean I’m not happy for your kid. I am, truly I am. I just want the same for my kiddos. Isn’t that what we all want as parents?