To the mum who pushes her unwilling child into team sports

Over the weekend, I met a bunch of mothers whose kids were at several ages. The younger mums were a mix of diffidence about their own habits and choices, while the older mothers were all-knowing and seemed to have endless advice to give to the younger mums. Poor young mums-- constantly having to listen to the inflated, smug advice of older mothers. However, that’s not the issue here. One of the older mums, whose son was 13 years old was complaining that she doesn’t let him do sleepovers because he won’t go out and play. That didn’t make sense to me: what did going for a sleepover have to do with going out to play?

She proceeded to explain to me that if he goes for sleep overs -- apparently very few boys do it -- then they’ll be stuck inside and he mostly has female friends so it is unlikely that he’ll go play sports. Now, my daughter is one of this boy’s many female friends and they are forever walking and talking.  There’s little play in what they do but there’s definitely a lot of bonding. And here’s a mother, actively dissuading a boy from bonding with someone he gets along with simply because he doesn’t fit her idea of who a boy should be. She says he is too sensitive and the boys bully him, so he doesn’t go play. She says he prefers playing with girls or talking to them because they don’t roughhouse him around the place. She is regularly pushing him to go play with the boys so he can toughen up.

It is amazing to because it is this same mother who is going to turn around when he’s 20 something and say he has to be sensitive to the person he chooses to fall in love with. This same mother is going to be asking for tenderness from him when she grows old. Then she won’t want him toughening up; then she will wish he spent more time at home than he did at work so that she wouldn’t feel so alone. I often wish parents would look beyond the idea of what is an ideal childhood. Yes kids should play sport. But what if they don’t enjoy the kind of sport that involves physical pushing and pulling? What if they don’t enjoy team sports? What if your son enjoys individual activity, with one on one attention? What if that’s his scene?

Often when I have expectations from my children, I take a minute to go back to my childhood and see what kind of child I was. Then I see how my parents dealt with it. Often the answer to what I must to lies somewhere in between. Yes, I’ll lose money if I sign my child up for a class he insisted on. Yes, my child will drift from one interest to another if she doesn’t know what she wants. But I think it’s worth it, to give them the room to find the thing that they can make their passion. To find the room to take something and make it their own.

So If you’ve got a kid who doesn’t like team sport, don’t worry. Focus on his personality and not on your idea of how a childhood should be. Is he peace-loving, is he gentle, doesn’t like being on his own happily? If these things are true of your child, you should back off a little and let him find things that make him happy and not get him to join things that will satisfy you that you’ve given him a good childhood. You can’t give him a good childhood. His childhood is his. Be there to just support make it brighter, better, less painful.

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