“Cones aren’t quitters.”
That statement has been one of our family’s core mottos for as long as we can remember. Our kids have had it ingrained in them since they were little, but it’s never really been put to the test…until last week.
Sure, our kids have tried a lot of different activities over the years and, to be honest, haven’t stuck with most of them, but they always finished out the season.
But our motto was never challenged until recently.
Perhaps it’s because our kids knew to obey us and never dared challenged our authority.
Perhaps it’s because nothing they tried was ever that challenging.
Or perhaps it’s because they loved and excelled at everything that came into their path (we all know that’s not the truth!).
The truth is, I decided to write about this topic today because I’m having trouble backing up my beliefs.
You see, my daughter just quit the high school volleyball team at her new school before the season ever began.
If I’m being honest, she never really wanted to play volleyball in the first place. We made her try out at the end of her 7th grade for her school team because we believe she needed to push herself and try something new.
She had never played before, but she made the team. She took classes over the summer and worked hard, despite her nerves, all season.
In the end, she was awarded the best offensive player of her 8th grade team because her team had the highest winning point percentage when she was up to serve (one of the only overhead serves on the B team!).
But what made me the most proud was when we heard the coach confess that after the initial tryouts (before Kariss truly knew how to play the game), that she had to have Kariss as a member of her team…not because of her skill, but because of her attitude.
Fast forward to this past spring, at the end of her 8th grade year, when we looked ahead at her going to a new school (and high school at that). We agreed trying out for the volleyball team (which would practice during the summer) would be a great way to get to know new people before the first day of school.
Though she doubted herself during tryouts, we discovered she made the team! Nerves set in, but so did excitement over what was to come.
This summer, she started workouts with the team, and to say things didn’t go as we expected would be an understatement.
After the first day, she begged me not to go back.
Was the workout too hard?
Were the girls not nice?
Did someone touch her inappropriately?
Our minds raced to get to the bottom of why she was having such a visceral reaction.
It turned out that it wasn’t so much a volleyball team workout as it was a literal workout for male and female high school athletes looking to stay in shape over the summer. So not only did she not know the routine, but no-one really went out of their way to make her feel welcome.
The next morning, I woke her up an hour and a half before we had to leave for workouts so she had time to get ready and we spent nearly that entire time talking. Well, not just talking, but also cajoling her to get out of bed, calming her down and trying to build her up.
Keep in mind, this is my first-born child: she is my more rational, even-keeled child who doesn’t always show emotions easily.
I couldn’t believe how the minutes ticked by and, before I knew it, it was the time we needed to leave to get to workouts on time and she refused to get out of bed.
For the first time in my parenting life, I realized I couldn’t just throw my little girl over my shoulder, buckle her in her car seat and force her to do what I wanted her to do.
She’s now taller than me.
She has a mind of her own.
And not only could I not physically make her go somewhere she didn’t want to, I wasn’t about to mentally manipulate her.
We ended up on the phone with her coach for a half hour, who gently told her much of what her junior high coach told her: she wouldn’t be there if she didn’t deserve to be and she wanted Kariss on the team for her character as much as her athletic ability.
The summer was a bit of a blur with camps, mission trips and family vacations, but then it was time to go back to the first practice on the court. She went, and it was like the emotions from the beginning of the summer all came rushing back.
The downward spiral started all over again.
I wish I could tell you the countless hours we’ve spent in the past week talking with her, crying with her and weighing the pros and cons. Add that to the hours I’ve spent praying individually, with my husband and interacting with my (and her) mentors, and this could have been a second full-time job.
But it’s not a job; it’s called parenting a teenager.
One thing we kept bringing up to our daughter was how this is the time to try new things. Her former school was very new and didn’t have a lot of the activities and classes she wanted to try and take, which is a big reason we looked for a different school for her; we were concerned that if she waited until college to try new things, she wouldn’t try them at all.
She signed up for a new language. She is taking an AP class. She’s looking into debate. But today, she decided to quit volleyball.
When my calendar notification popped up to take her to team pictures, I started crying. It all seemed to final.
I didn’t want to make her feel bad and I didn’t necessarily feel like I failed as a parent, but I ached for the experience she will miss out on.
Is it the end of her road? Of course not.
Did her coach say she’d always be welcome back on the team? Amazingly, she did.
Are we still proud of her? Absolutely.
But there’s not a lot we can do about it.
Sure, we could take her phone away (that she just got for her 14th birthday with her own money). We could forbid sleepovers and berate her with guilt until she hates being in the house so much that she believes volleyball practice is a better option. But what good would that do?
I know I’m supposed to be convincing you that trying new things and taking risks as a teenager is beneficial, and yet I just shared how our daughter quit the very things we were trying to convince her to try.
But that’s just it – she did try.
Did it work out like we’d hoped? No.
Did we spend money on camps and uniforms we won’t get back? Yes.
Will she learn and grow from this experience? We all will.
I have no idea what the future holds, but I do know we will continue to push her to try new things in the years when she can fail while she’s under our roof and we can still be there to pick her back up. Regardless of what happens, I stand firm on my belief that we must encourage our teens especially to take risks and try new things.
If you need a little help finding the words to encourage your teen through the challenges they face, Max Lucado just released a student edition of his Unshakeable Hope Promise Book that could prove to be a valuable resource. Aside from understanding that taking risks gets harder as our kids gets older, I’ve also come to understand that sometimes they need to hear advice and encouragement from someone other than their parents.
This wasn’t the first time she doubted herself and it won’t be the last. As much as I want to protect her from everything and everyone that could hurt or harm her, that’s not what God has called me to as her parent.
So do it: encourage your teen to try the hard things, to make a fool of themselves and to take the risks they never dreamed of taking.
It won’t be the easy route, but it’s the route we all must take if we want to raise adults instead of children.