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.


  1. WOW. That's a tough lesson...for you AND her. Somehow she will learn from that and always remember it...but it sure is hard along the way. God bless you for the way you stepped back and took a look at this situation. There was a time when my blood would have boiled WAY too long over something like this. I wonder how the mom of the dishonest player felt? I have been in those shoes THOSE are tough shoes to be in. Let's pray he learned something too!

  2. He probably learned he could get away with it. :) Darn it, I would have NOT been able to not say something either Shawni, and sometimes, yes, these kids need to learn how to stick up for themselves, but sometimes also they learn how to handle things like this by watching US handle them. I think sometimes, at some ages, we expect our kids to have these crazy good communication skills to match those kids who are used to dealing with things like this (and being "confident" enough to talk back to an adult rudely is an indicator that polite Elle might not have been a match for him that way), or we expect them to do things, or say things, that even WE as grown adults might not know how to handle the right way to reach a resolution.
    There are fine lines between acting as an advocate, and letting kids figure things out on their own.
    This is hard one, and I feel your pain!

  3. Yes I agree, sometimes we certainly SHOULD stand up and fight for our kids, and yes it sure is a fine line, darn it. I don't like all these fine lines :) But from the attitude of this boy and the fact that I think he was the one who actually got in a fight with another player earlier in the tournament I knew getting in any more wouldn't help much. Elle did too. She's quite perceptive that way. So she did her best and I'm proud of her. I kind of like how the tennis association helps teach kids in a good environment that they are the ones who need to make the calls, or stand up for the calls too.

  4. great post. Thanks for the lessons we all need to think about.

  5. WOW! That is an awesome story for me because I am uber competitive and super anxious about all being fair...I think I would've flipped. So good lesson for me. And your daughter is just the cutest little thing I have ever seen and you are such an example! Thanks.

  6. That would be VERY difficult to sit through. Great Post. What an amazing daughter you have for her to already be able to discern which battles are worth fighting.

  7. That makes me mad just reading it...I'm proud of you for holding your tongue for as long as you did. I'm sure that's something I will have to learn to do as well because I think I would have called that kid out and fought with whoever. Keeping the "mama bear" in is probably one of the hardest things for moms to do.

  8. As an avid tennis player myself, I know this situation all too well.
    When I was on my high school and college tennis teams, I would occasionally play against people like this and my unkind term for them were "tennis nazis" and it was better to give them a point or two as long as it wasn't going to cost me a game or a match.
    I would have probably came darn near getting thrown out because it's different when it's your children. Where were this boy's parents?

  9. Alrighty….I have to say…what a GREAT post! What a perfect example of Bold Humility! Your daughter didn’t give up…she kept going…she kept playing…and when it was over…she emanated authentic joy. You BET she knew what the other player was doing! It takes a truly self-aware soul to allow another’s negative energy to be deflected…to stay completely “present” and not allow her ego to be activated. If only more of us could learn this early on in life!

  10. she's got a kind heart, that matters more than ANYTHING! good job shawni!
    and Elle, you ROCK!

  11. These are the MOST difficult lessons for us as mothers! I think you are amazing that you didn't jump onto the court and rip the kid's head off (OK, that was pretty dramatic) but seriously, showing restraint is sometimes the most valiant lesson we can teach to our precious children. Elle is clearly the winner in all of this. She showed grace and poise in a difficult situation...I only wish I had learned that lesson at her tender age. I know you're proud (as you should be) of her integrity. I only feel really sad for the opponent who learned that cheating was "OK" that sad for him.

  12. I'm proud of both of you. It's hard not to let the emotion take over myself just reading about it! But, you both have learned early that there are more important ways to use our energy and some lessons must be learned by the individual rather than taught, that's even true for the other player. Hopefully, the Spirit will teach him if others can't.

  13. I'm glad I wasn't there! The Grammie Bear in me would surely have bubbled over! That kid has got some sad lessons to learn in the future! So proud of that adorable Elle smile despite everything!

  14. Where was the boy's coach, surely he/she is at fault for not reprimanding the boy who has probably gotten away with cheating more than once.


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