When our oldest was three, we signed her up for soccer. My husband proudly took her out on a date to get shin guards and a tiny ball, and I made soccer mom jokes on Instagram.
Two minutes into her first practice we discovered we’d made a terrible mistake.
She was one of the youngest on the team, she was fairly small, and she had no interest in the physicality of the sport. She was a hilarious and frustrating stereotype, picking dandelions and sticking them behind her ear as a cluster of kids ran by chasing the ball.
Our other daughter was about 18 months old, and while the one we signed up for the team wanted nothing more than to be off the field sipping a juice box, the toddler wanted nothing more than to be ON the field, throwing ‘bows and kicking the ball down the field.
It’s been a few years (we’ve since added another baby), so over the summer I asked the two older girls what activity they wanted to do in the fall. I let them choose between soccer (they’d showed interest in trying it again) and ballet (which they’d both done the previous year). The middle chose ballet, and the older chose soccer.
We held our breaths and signed her up. Surely she’d be more into it now?
She wasn’t. It was like a time machine -– different fields, different jersey, same timidity and unwillingness to participate.
More recently she showed interest in the school play. They have chorus roles for kindergarteners and they stay after school to practice a mere 4 times. I signed her up, and after the first rehearsal she told me she wasn’t going back. I asked questions, made sure nothing bad had happened, and told her we’d keep talking about it.
I was pretty flabbergasted. It felt like a role play or something –- what do you do when your kid wants to quit something?
If we look to Disney or Nickelodeon, I think the response would be that they’re supposed to work harder and keep trying until their dreams come true. (I’m not sure how that applies when their dream is to drop out, I’ll be honest.) But we’re not looking at Disney or Nick, we’re looking at Jesus.
Because our rules aren’t always “work harder” I can’t tell you what to do if your kid is a chronic quitter, and I’m not even going to tell you what we did, I can say this: the uncertainty of motherhood is here to stay.
When you’re a new mom with your first baby, the uncertainty centers around sleep times, and feedings, and diapers. When you have a toddler it’s about potty training, and words, and making sure they don’t throw themselves off of dangerous things. And now...soccer and school plays. I hear it continues like this until forever.
I’ve said before that I was an EXCELLENT wife before I got married. And I was an AMAZING mom before I had kids, too. But the reality is that these roles reveal the reality of my heart: I am needy. I am uncertain. I am unsure, and sometimes I’m afraid.
But I am not alone. I’m not alone because every other person faces this kind of thing in big and small ways, but more importantly, I’m not alone because Jesus is with me. When I parent as a child of God, the disappointments aren’t without hope, and the celebrations are sweet. Let them quit, or encourage them to stay, but always, always, point them to Jesus.
Kristi is a pastor’s wife and mom to three pretty spectacular little girls. Find her on Instagram and Twitter at @kristennannjames and on her blog And Babies Don’t Keep.