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. The DeGrassi Junior High of Parenting. What do you do when your kid wants to quit something? Repeatedly?
We ended up making different decisions about each situation. With soccer, we encouraged her to finish the season, even if it meant holding the coaches hand on the field and being the ball girl instead of actually playing the game. With the school play, we let her quit. I heard from other parents that the youngest kids did a lot of sitting around, like Liv said, and her emotional reaction was so strong that I didn’t feel the need to push her through it. When they saw the play at school, she didn’t regret quitting. It all worked out.
Since then we’ve started ballet again and they’ve both said they don’t want to do it. I don’t know why our kids appear to be chronic quitters. It’s probably because they’re young and aren’t exactly consistent people, and so on. This quitting thing is tough though, and I can’t tell you what faithfulness looks like in YOUR situation. I CAN say that it was another reminder that the uncertainty of motherhood is here to stay. It was a reminder that in parenting we need frameworks that shape our responses more than we need to-do lists and impersonal instructions.
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 truth about me: 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.
This is my framework.
When I parent as a child of God, when I LIVE as a child of God, the disappointments aren’t without hope, and the celebrations are sweet. There are practical ways to work through the challenges of parenting – we certainly aren’t interested in raising lazy, chronic quitters so we’ll have to keep engaging them here. But when it comes to the heart of it all, let them quit or encourage them to stay, but always, always, point them to Jesus.
This post originally appeared on www.kristenannjames.com
Kristi James is a writer, church planter’s wife, and mom to three hilarious littler quitters, as well as working as the Acquisitions Editor for Women’s Titles at P&R Books. Find her on her blog at www.kristenannjames.com or on Instagram as @kristenannjames.