The other night after wrestling practice, one of the board members came up to me and asked if she could talk to me for a moment. She’s also the mother a wrestler, and I have had some interaction with her in the past. She’s very nice. I told her yes, so she started talking.
In a nutshell, she told me that my boys need to have more focus at practice, that they get off task and can be distracting to the other kids. Several of the coaches had mentioned this to her. They are in the advanced group, which is a privilege, and if they feel like they can’t handle it, they need to go back to the other group. She understood that their age might have a lot to do with their actions since they were young, and even though they have been in wrestling for a while, it might be more beneficial for them to be in the other group.
She wasn’t being mean about it, just straightforward—these are the facts. As she spoke, my stomach fluttered, and heat crawled into my face. Mama Bear was ready to lash out, to defend my kids, to yell at her for criticizing them. It was all I could do to keep my emotions in check.
My response: I nodded and said that there had been times where my husband and I had talked to them about needing to focus and work hard. I told her I would let my husband know and we would talk about it. I left practice feeling incredibly embarrassed, hurt, and angry.
The boys kept asking what she had said, and I told them I would tell them in the car. And I did. I told them exactly what she had said and asked if they wanted to go back into the other group. Of course they didn’t, so I asked them what they had to do, and they told me they had to stop messing around and pay attention.
Later that night at home, I wasn’t feeling any better about the situation. In fact, I was even more angry. I told my husband what had been said, and his initial reaction was also anger. He commented that our kids didn’t act any different than some of the others and that if she wanted to single out misbehaving kids, he could point some out to her. I agreed with him, but then said that we can’t control other people’s kids, we can only control ours.
He asked if she had given specific examples of what they had done, but she didn’t. I didn’t ask for any. He then asked if she had spoken to other parents, but I didn’t know because that wasn’t any of my business.
The next day, I was still upset about what had been said. So many ideas of how to react to the situation ran through my head. I thought about pulling the boys out of wrestling and asking for a refund or I could ignore everyone there and just do my own thing or I could send an email and express my concern about how the situation was handled. All of these seemed like viable options. But as I showered something else occurred to me: how would any of these help my kids?
When I asked if the kids could be in the advanced wrestling group it was for two reasons: 1) because I thought they could handle it and 2) so they would be challenged. This is their third year of wrestling, and I wanted to give them the opportunity to grow. The other group is much more focused on the basics of wrestling (which are incredibly important), but I watched my kids getting bored and they would start messing around when they were supposed to be paying attention. I felt if they were in a group that was more challenging, they would focus more.
What I found was that the kids enjoyed being there, but it was hard for them. They actually had to work at practice, they couldn’t mess around like they had before. They would get tired. They would ask if they could take a break, and I would tell them no. I would tell them that if they were going to be there, they had to participate. Either I or my husband had to stay on them to get them to practice. They would get upset, and I would get frustrated.
There are two wrestling seasons, and before the second one started, and I asked the boys if they wanted to participate. I told them that if they weren’t having fun doing it anymore, then they shouldn’t do it. I gave them the choice of continuing to be there or not, and they decided to be there. I told them that if that was the case, they needed to work hard at practice and they couldn’t mess around.
While my husband and I were talking about the situation, he commented that when he sees the boys screwing around, he’ll go over and stand by them so they stop immediately. Which was a signal to me that maybe they weren’t doing what they were supposed to do. Maybe there was some truth in the woman’s words.
I’m going to be honest, I don’t pay that much attention to the boys while they’re at practice. I use that hour and a half to work on my own things, whether it’s writing or editing or just reading. I feel like I shouldn’t have to hover over my kids and make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to. They should know what’s expected and obey the rules or pay the consequences. They made the choice to be at wrestling, so they need to live up to expectations.
It sucked having that conversation after wrestling, I’m not going to lie. Like I said, it was embarrassing. It made me feel like I was a bad parent because I couldn’t keep my kids under control. No one wants to have that kid. It felt like she was attacking me, and it was hard to fight back the urge to defend my children. It was hard not to point out that they acted just like the other kids.
But saying these things would not have helped the situation. First of all, she wasn’t attacking me or my parenting. She was just bringing to my attention that there was an issue. Like I said, I don’t pay that much attention at practice, I don’t really know what the boys are doing. If several coaches mentioned it and my husband has to hover over them, maybe there is a problem.
While I want to believe that my boys are perfect and she’s just singling them out and being mean, I have to look at the whole picture. What benefit would she get from doing that? There are a lot of kids at practice, and they all deserve to learn and grow in the sport of wrestling, but if the coach constantly has to focus on mine, the others aren’t getting the attention they deserve. And, again, it’s the advanced group. My kids should know how to behave at this point in time.
My knee-jerk reaction to the situation was to pull the kids out of wrestling and ask for my money back, but what does that teach my kids? That shows my boys that if they ever encounter criticism or are called out on bad behavior, they can just quit and never have to take responsibility or change their behavior. But that’s not what I want to teach my kids. I want them to take responsibility for their actions and do what is necessary to make it right.
The same thing can be said for my other idea of just ignoring the other parents. That’s not teaching them proper social skills either. We are all part of a team, and we have to work together to make that team successful, and sometimes that means swallowing our pride, admitting when we’re wrong, and fixing it.
I can’t fix a problem if I don’t know it exists. And even though the situation and discussion was hard for me to hear and handle, it will only lead to something better. It will allow my boys (and me) to grow, and that’s what I really want for my kids.