Just like every August for the last, well 20 years or so, the Little League World Series, has come and gone. With it another crop of kids thankful to play at such a high level, and others wishing they had just played one more game. Aside from the missed family vacations, the LLWS probably does more good than bad.
But one group which stuck out in my 15 minutes (total) of watching the LLWS was the parents. Numbers of parents had photograph face cut-outs on popsicle sticks of their kids. No doubt their kids names and numbers were on their mini vans as well. Neither activity is necessarily bad, but possibly more often than not, inform the world what these parents live for: their children’s sports success.
Parents can be really neurotic about their children’s success, and sometimes its very easy to diagnose that neurosis it others. And consequently it’s very easy to be disgusted when you see it. My wife couldn’t stomach the LLWS after seeing those popsicle sticks. I get disgusted when parents when parents will stop at nothing to make their kid front and center.
But today I reflected upon my similarity to that neurosis I hate so much in others but often fail to see in myself. I had told someone recently that Connar was the best kid on his Tee ball team at the first practice. But on Tuesday he was hitting the tee, and actually throwing the ball “like a baby” (that’s the most apropos comparison I could muster). On one occasion, instead of throwing to first base, he simply rolled it! Another kid, a 5 year old, hit better, threw farther and fielded better. Connar wasn’t the best anymore and I couldn’t take it.
So what did I do? I went out and bought a soft Teeball the next day. When Connar hit the stitches off the ball, I went out and bought a bag of balls. At what point do I want him to be the best, and “try his best to honor God,” for my sake, and for my glory. I was no different than those parents that made me sick: I need him to be front and center. I had already become (actually a while ago) the parent I had so quickly critiqued.
Here are some things I learned and may prove helpful
1.) Remember what is good about our kids performances. It is good to practice. After all we develop our spiritual gifts by practicing as well. Performances, whether in school, sports, plays, teach discipline and give us opportunities to do all things for the glory of God (I Cor 10:31). Praying, reading the bible, and telling people about Jesus are not the only “spiritual” things we do.
2.) Repent regularly. I think as parents we cross back and forth over the lines of my glory/kids glory/God’s glory all the time. Therefore we need to reflect, repent, and rest in Christ often. Very often.
3.) Listen to ourselves talk. One way to examine our motives is not to look at other people’s mini-vans, but to listen to our own words. Do we talk an inordinate amount of time about our kids interests or about Jesus? We talk about what we cherish (channeling my inner John Piper now). And we teach our kids by talking about what we cherish.
4.) What REALLY is my primary goal? Is it a scholarship for my kid? That would be great, but I’m not planning on that happening. As long as my son wants to practice hitting and fielding every day in our front yard, I’ll keep pitching fastballs to him. Yet my primary goal is for him to walk with Jesus and connect to a church when he leaves the house. If that really is my goal, it will be reflected in my conversation, prayers, time spent, and even my dreams. I don’t think it hurts to regularly remember and recast that vision to yourself and your spouse time and time again.
When these things are in place, I can get back to coaching, practicing, and simply enjoying and delighting in my child as the great gift from God he is. Regardless of his performance. That’s how God looks at His children, so I figure that’s probably a good model.
I can have a cut-out (though I doubt I ever will), I can put his name, number, and sport on my minivan (though I know I never will), when I remember who God is and who my child is not.