First of all, I have to start with this disclaimer: If my son knew I was using his life experience for a blog post, he would die. So let’s just keep this one between you and me, okay?
Back in the day, my day, when you were in the 7th grade, everyone who wanted to play basketball got to play basketball. And I use the term “play” loosely of course. Some rode the pine train the whole season, but still, they suited up, they had a number, they were a part of the team!
So, when my son expressed an interest in playing basketball in middle school, I was all for it! I thought- it will be a great experience being a part of a team. I’ll love watching him from the bleachers, cheering his name loudly when he scores – it’s going to be so fun.
When he came home from school one day to tell me that there were tryouts, I was surprised. But he wasn’t horrible – he could make baskets and dribble. No sweat, I told him. Then he told me there were 15 spots and 40 kids trying out. I thought for a moment – still – you got this babe. Do your best and you’ll make it!
The day he came out of school after tryouts I searched his face and could read nothing. Then he said to me – “I didn’t make the team, mom.”
WHAT? I was aghast. I honestly thought he’d make it. Sure, he wasn’t a super star. He played rec league a few seasons. But he wasn’t terrible!! I demanded a list of the boys who did make it, half of whom I didn’t know or didn’t know their basketball skill level, but come on!
The next part is where being a mom gets hard. I wanted discuss it and talk about how he was robbed and be indignant. But really that won’t get my son anywhere. The fact was he didn’t make the team. And I had to take that fragile little 7th grade boy ego and do some repair work. Acting like it was an injustice (even though I still believe it was) wasn’t going to do anyone any favors.
My heart hurt for him. I knew how much he had looked forward to playing. I looked at him and said “Well, there’s always next year.” He said “yeah, I’ll try next year”, with his eyes cast towards the ground. I gave him a hug. And inserted the line that I know every kid who hasn’t made the team has heard – “You know Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team.”
Sometimes we don’t always have the right words to say. Sometimes we may need to pass the baton to dad to handle. Sometimes all they need to know is we get it, we’ve been there, and life goes on. The thing I want most for my kids is for them to grow from their life experiences. They won’t always make the team, get the solo, ace the test, or get the part in the play. Learning how to handle rejection is part of life. My hope is that I teach them to handle it gracefully, they are spurred on to try harder for the things they really want, and that they know they will always be first pick in my eyes.