Monday, May 9, 2011

cheaters and battles

A few weeks ago Elle had another tennis tournament.

She has one at the end of each month so it was not anything out of the ordinary. But even so, it taught me a lesson that has kept me thinking:

Sometimes I have to let my kids fight their own battles.

This is what happened:

Elle worked hard and did well. It's not like she's going to Wimbledon any time soon or anything, but there's something so fun about watching your daughter "get" something. Especially when that thing is something I love. She can hit the ball pretty hard with those scrawny arms of hers :)

Here she is getting a pep-talk with her "coach:"Anyway, they divided up the kids into two groups for this tournament. Each member of each group played each other, then the first and second place played the first and second place of the other group.

Elle won in her group.
Which meant she was paired up to play the second-place kid from the other group.

Now, I have to say here that Elle is a nice tennis player. If a ball is in question of being in or out she generally gives her opponent the point. When she hits a great shot that her opponent can't return she apologizes. Really.

I just figure that's what you do in tennis. You're nice and you don't cheat. So I was amazed sitting there on the side-lines to see Elle's opponent in the finals call a ball "out" that was really very-much "in." I figured it was a mistake.

But then he did it again.

I held my tongue but I was bugged. Elle was polite as ever and didn't say a word.

Then this kid announced the wrong score when he started his serve. He gave himself Elle's higher score. And that was when my Tiger Mother spontaneously came out...I couldn't help myself and tried to correct him. He disagreed (not very nicely). As I was about to boil over amazed that this kid would talk back to an adult and blatantly cheat, a lady from the tennis association nicely reminded me that this has to be up to the kids, not the adults.

She put me in my place and although I was a little embarrassed I'm grateful for the lesson. This was Elle's fight, not mine. She needed to be the one to step up if she had a problem with the score. What was I going to teach her by fighting her battle?

I can talk to my kids on the "sidelines" of life and help them know etiquette, help them soak in the spirit, help them with homework, help them nurture good friendships, etc. But when it comes right down to it they are the ones who will be out in the world fighting their own battles some day. At some point I need to step back and let them do it themselves.

I hope that some day, when they're out independently facing their own "Goliaths," they will have learned from the baby steps I "let them take" growing up.And really, when it comes down to it, that's much more important than winning some tennis tournament along the way.
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