Give Them a Chance
My oldest son has been interested in playing basketball. We went through a whirl-wind of a basketball season with my daughter right after soccer and before Christmas, but we had had a little break so I said I would sign him up. When I found out that it would only require one hour of commitment each Saturday I was thrilled. My son was thrilled that he would get a chance to play against kids his own age (his big sisters are 3 and 5 years older than him, so family basketball games were always a bit discouraging). But it didn’t exactly go as planned…
My son has OCD. Often he gets very firm ideas in his head and it is very shocking to him when things don’t go as he has imagined they would. I know we all deal with this on some level, but it’s more challenging for his brain to adapt to quick changes. So when we walked into the big high school gym and he saw the bleachers of people (all the parents and kids from the previous grade that was finishing up their session AND all the parents and kids from his grade), he freaked out. He was imagining playing on the small elementary court like his sister had. He was imagining a handful of parents (most of which he would have recognized from playing soccer) and a more orderly structure. When all the kids his age started grabbing basketballs and shooting, he just couldn’t bring himself to join in. Instead he curled up in a ball next to us on the bleachers and cried.
We stayed and kept encouraging him. Coaches came over and talked to him. Two of his grandmas were there and tried their best to help, but it was no use. About halfway through the session, after no one had talked to him for a while, I said, “You know, you could still jump right in. The coaches won’t mind.” But he turned his sad face up to me and said, “I can’t do that, because now everyone thinks I am weird!”
Oh mamas, I know you know how I felt in that moment. I just pulled him into a hug and my heart swelled for him. He was fighting a battle and there was nothing I could say in the moment to help him, just let him know that I loved him. So I wiped the tears from my eyes and decided to just enjoy watching the other kids play. It’s a blast to watch kids at sports, especially when it’s the first day and most of them don’t know what they are doing. I felt joy flooding my soul and I knew deep down that being joyful was all I needed to do for my son right in that moment.
We have a family rule in our house that if you start a sport, you have to give it at least a good try before you decide you don’t want to play. I know not every sport is for everyone, but keeping your commitments is a practice that I want my children to have. Throughout the week I reminded my son that I would keep taking him to basketball every Saturday until he participated. If he took part and decided he didn’t like it, then I would not take him anymore. I told him that real friends would be proud of him for doing something that was hard, and he should not worry about what other people think. He told me he would never play and we would just go sit there every Saturday. I told him that was ok.
The next Saturday, my son got off the bleachers and picked up a basketball. He looked at me, I motioned him onto the court, he started to move that way, faltered, and then put the basketball back. He did that twice, and then came and curled up in a ball on the bleachers. Daddy made a few attempts at getting him out onto the court, but to no avail. He did not play basketball that week. But I felt that the fact that he touched a basketball was at least progress.
Another week of talking. I explained to my son that we were not trying to be mean to him, or to embarrass him or make things hard, we just couldn’t let fear or OCD rule his life. We needed to give him the opportunity to overcome all the things that were keeping him from playing this sport that he likes with his friends.
Last Saturday he did hesitate when it was time for his class to take the court, but he did go. And he played the whole session. And as soon as we got out of the gym door, he quickly said, “I want to play again next week!” I held back the tears and lightly made a joke. I knew he didn’t want me to make a big deal about it, but inside I was bursting with pride and so very thankful to God that my boy had this victory.
I’m sharing this story today because I feel like there are so many things I was reminded of from this experience:
I can have joy even when things are uncomfortable and a battle is going on.
I need to be flexible and trust God when things don’t go as I imagine.
I can’t let others’ opinions keep me from doing what I love.
I need to be patient and allow myself or my children to be uncomfortable. Because sometimes that uncomfortableness is a part of the process that leads to change and victory.
Anyway, that is my tale of three Saturdays and what they taught me. I’m looking forward to next week. My son says that he may actually try to make a basket this time. Last week he was so afraid that someone would pass him the ball he stayed near the half court line every time his team had the ball (haha!). But progress is progress!
Blessings to you, mamas!