Sitting on my hands: parenting and self-restraint

Today is the second day of try-outs for a team that Grace really, really wants to be on. It’s volleyball, a sport she’s never played before.

Before the try-outs began, she asked the coach if she’d accept novice players, and the coach said, “Yes.” She’s willing to teach.

Still, Grace must demonstrate she has what it takes. I must confess that I have been very tempted to secretly influence the outcome. My persistent thought, all week, has been to email the coach (whom I’ve met) and make a persuasive and covert case for Grace. I imagine describing my daughter’s physical strength, desire, reliability, and team spiritedness. I have imagined striking a deal that goes like this: If you pick her for the team, I promise that we will do a lot of drills with her at home. We won’t let you down.

My tendency to over think is saving me, in this instance, from meddling. While I have written a perfect email in my head and fantasized Grace’s joy at being picked, I have also had a lengthy internal dialogue about the ultimate rightness of such parental “involvement.” The Jane who is all I WANT I WANT I WANT — and NOW! has been counseled by the Jane who takes the long view and is on the side of transparency and fairness. I also want the kids to incrementally grow in independence and self-advocacy, which means I have to sit on my hands a lot and not always prevent, not always fix.

There will be no Dear Coach email.

Yesterday, we helped Grace make sure she has the gear she needs for the second day of tryouts, and we bought our first volleyball. Jimmy spent some time in the backyard with her at dusk, with the outdoor lights on, catching balls that she served to him and throwing balls that she pounded back. At dinner, Grace described a message that she will say to the coach, on how much she wants to be on the team. Lydia advised Grace on some words she might add.

We can help our kids prepare for the contests of the world, which will be many. Much as I would like to, I cannot guarantee the outcome by my own efforts. I feel the temptation of trying to, though, so I resist mightily.


Update (9.28.2012): Sad face. No volleyball team this year.

5 thoughts on “Sitting on my hands: parenting and self-restraint

  1. My father always told us that the greatest gift a parent can give their child is independence. It is a brutal one, and I have to sit on my hands aplenty, but well worth it in the end. That said, “go Gracie, go!”

  2. Another good reason for you to have taken the road that you did (the high one) is that coaches often don’t appreciate parental meddling – and it sometimes even reflects poorly on the athlete.

  3. You are definitely making the right choice, especially in a case like this when either outcome has a plus side. Grace makes the team – great! She doesn’t, and she learns about dealing with disappointment and you don’t have to spend time on practice and games.

  4. I think you made the correct choice and not approaching the coach. You have met the coach and that might be influence enough. There must be other recreational volleyball times at the Dedham Sports complex where Grace can improve her skills. She should not get discouraged. If she really wants to play volleyball, then she will find a way to practice so that she will be ready for the next level. Remember if she makes the team, she has to fulfill her obligation and not quit because she has taken the place of somebody else who wanted to be on the team.

  5. I think “sitting on your hands” is a good decision.
    I remember talking to “helicopter parents” at MIT. It was not fun….talking to the students themselves was always better.

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