A couple weeks ago Elle tried out for the Jr. High soccer team.

At first I just figured she’d make it (in my inexperienced little mind). I mean, she had played two whole soccer seasons (ha) and knew how to hustle.

But then I found out nearly forty kids were trying out for fifteen spots.

And then I found out that it was a seventh AND eighth grade team.

And then I realized that some kids, (maybe the ones with dedicated, on-the-ball parents), had been playing soccer all their lives in clubs and all that jazz.

And then I decided not to take it too seriously. It would be a great experience for Elle, make it or not. And that’s the attitude Elle had right from the start.

So tryouts came and went.

The first day it was almost 120 degrees outside with a heat advisory warning so they canceled that day, but Elle and her two friends trying out with her worked their little hearts out the four other days.

Some days Elle thought she’d maybe make it. Others she thought there wasn’t a chance in the world.

On the last day they handed each girl an envelope with their tryout fates enclosed on their way off the field.
My heart was beating fast as we pulled in the driveway after dropping the other girls off, but Elle was surprisingly calm and collected. She opened the letter, shrugged, a little sad, but totally fine that she didn’t make it, and went inside to get ready for a birthday party.

I sat in the car letting my feelings roll around in my head for a little bit.

Feelings of relief because she’d be in trouble with her tennis teacher who wants her to really commit to tennis right now.

And because things are crazy enough as it is around here.

Feelings of pride for Elle that she gave it her best shot, and that it was hard. (I like hard…and I know I sound like a broken record about that…).

But most of all it left me feeling a little guilty. I should have encouraged Elle to practice more. I should have let her play on more teams. I should have watched the tryouts (lugging my kids along-side me in the heat). I should have gotten to know the coach.

Which led to a big discussion between Dave and me about when to meddle in our kids’ business.

At what point does it get political? At what point do teachers/coaches give precedence and advantage to kids or families they know well? I’m sure most of them don’t mean to, it’s just human nature to favor what you know.

I have always put in very strong wishes as to who their teachers would be in elementary school. Is that too much meddling? I don’t think so…those elementary school teachers are SO important in the lives of young children, and friends and all that make a pretty big difference.

But there comes a point when you have to let that go. Let kids fend for themselves. Let them have big disappointments. But when is that point?

I learned my lesson with Elle and her classes this year (in this post here…definitely not a good time to meddle…she’s doing SO great without me going in there and messing things up).

But at what point can an involved parent really help their child gain confidence and really succeed in life? I’m not talking cheating or undercover deals. I’m talking about teaching your child how to really talk to adults by being a good example yourself. Asking questions. Getting to know those he/she may be involved with.

I know my Dad was super involved with all my brother’s basketball things. I know he was a big influence on my choosing to go to Boston University for a year (which was one of the best decisions I ever made…and really, would I have made it without him quietly orchestrating in the background? I don’t know). I know my mom was involved with teachers and lessons and all that came with that.

The truth is, we parents have a big responsibility to choose when to get involved, and when to let go. And as my kids turn into teenagers, I can see that’s gonna be a tough balance.

Having said all this, all these thoughts weren’t aimed at the soccer team tryouts. Elle was up against some kids who have played all their lives and made the team fair and square. The whole process just made me think about all that other stuff.

I think it’s so important for kids to find their own way in the world…but there’s nothing wrong with a little direction and gentle prodding here and there.

Just some random, early morning thoughts to start off the day.

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  1. My oldest child is 13, so I have been pondering the same sort of thing. I have a good friend who (in my opinion) meddles WAY too much, and those poor kids will never learn how to do anything for themselves (the oldest is 25!). So I see that and really feel strongly that I don't want to do that. I agree with you, though, that some meddling can be a positive thing. When I was in college my mom helped me get a great summer job that I had throughout my college years. Then, too, sometimes you have to let them fail. My 13 year-old son applied for a really cool summer science camp, and he did not want me to help him or even see his application essay. As he was getting ready to send it in I saw something on it that pretty much told me he wouldn't make it into this highly competitive camp this year. I let it go, and didn't say anything, because that is how he wanted it. Well, he didn't get into the camp, and he was sad but dealt with it rather well.
    I never said anything about the essay. Right? Wrong? It is so hard being a parent and trying to sort all of this out. Thanks for being there with me on my journey, Shawni. 🙂

  2. I'm more of the not meddling camp. Advocating is one thing. If your child needs your intervention to protect their interests (mostly health and wellness kinds of things) that's one thing. Otherwise, I think you should help if/when they ask and encourage them in whatever they do. It's so important to raise children who know how to succeed and fail on their own. How much greater is the value of their success when they achieved it independently?

  3. Hi Shawni,
    I personally think if kids want to play on a soccer team, then they should play on a soccer team. No one should be turned away! Many of our children our struggling with obesity and they need to be out there doing more physical actities. I think your community needs more people to volunteer as coaches to create a couple more teams. Wouldn't that be great?

  4. Really good subject matter Shawni. Sports teams are hard…I have to say, from my experience, it has gone the way of crazy. Travel teams for first graders…and it's true, that these kids have been playing highly competitive sports for years and years and have quite an advantage over the other kids whose parents didn't take them every weekend out of state, spending thousands a season, dragging the rest of the family with them. It's upped the anty really to a ridiculous level of competition. It's no good anymore just to be age-level good…it's almost to the point of obsession, and I think, from what I've seen in 16 years, it's more parental obsession than child led obsession.
    Having to "pick your sport" in first, second or heck, even junior high, play it year round, and spend a gazillion dollars doing it in order to compete? That's crazy stuff.
    I realize the post was more about when to step in and advocate as parents…it's hard. I've seen so many parents try to make their children's lives perfect…the perfect teacher, the perfect coach, the perfect friends. Resilence is one of the best gifts we can cultivate in a child.
    But having a mom or dad "have your back" at times is a pretty secure feeling too.

  5. Oh,man! The joys of parenting. It is usually harder on us parents than the kids when disappointment arises. I have learned to listen to my intuition. Kids need to let their skills, talents and work speak for them. However, once in a while a parent needs to speak on their behalf. With 2 teenage daughters we have had many an up and down. Communication is paramount!! When one door closes another one opens. Helping them to see the BIG picture and what else lies ahead is also a great teaching tool.

    With a serious ballerina in the house, we talk about not letting a "level", "title" or "role" define who you are, what you are capable of and limit you. If they want to try…I say go for it!

    It is a cut throat world of sports, dance, clubs, etc… What works for one kid won't work for another.

    Raising kids and teenagers is never easy! But so worth it!!

  6. I have probably always walked a thin line when it came to this subject. I must admit, I meddled at times. Life sometimes seemed so unfair. But then there were times when I felt like they needed to learn just that. Life isn't fair. They have to learn how to react when it isn't. Most of the time it is US with the hurt feelings. Kids are such examples to us when it comes to bouncing right back. I didn't always get it right with mine…and I bit my tongue a lot…but, I had their best interest at heart…and so do YOU. What a great, *Mommy-Heart* post!

  7. shawn – my heart was beating so fast while reading the beginning of this post!! ha! you and i have talked a lot about this, and i'm sure you'll figure out what's best for you and your kids. i do think that the whole tryout thing is too intense. seriously, dance co tryouts because my whole entire complete world and the results were utterly horrid or spectacularly triumphant. elections, tryouts … i wish there was a way to make them not so huge for kids.

  8. I do hate that you have to have the sport or activity picked out for your child from age 4 or 5 and have them do it forever for them to make any sort of teams later. I'm more of the have fun and try different things and only one at a time. But that doesn't work any more. Sad.

  9. Soccer. Yes it is ridiculous you need to pick an activity from age 4, have them do it forever and live in the car to and from for years for them to play on the school and travel teams. But it is soccer. This isn't a lifelong activity for people like running, tennis or music where they can do solo or with a small number of friends. The point is to teach them to be active life long. There are very few people at age 22 on soccer teams. Focus on the life long stuff.

  10. Shawni–long time blog stalker & I have never commented, but this post was right up my alley. I grew up in a small town, and the competition to make a sport was nill. I played every sport in JH and High School, so naturally I wanted my girls to sign up to play volleyball last year at Highland JH(they were in 7th & 8th grade). Come to find out–50 girls tried out for the 7th grade team–47 for the 8th grade team. Neither one made it. They were devastated. As much as I would have LOVED to put them on club teams, I have 6 children–and club teams are NOT made for large families! I got them to try out for softball later in the year–and because it wasn't as popular of a sport, there were less kids trying out & they both made it! It was a great experience. This year, my oldest is in 9th grade & decided on a whim to try out for volleyball once again. Guess what? She made the team! She worked out through the summer, did a few camps, and tried REALLY hard–because she really wanted it–and it paid off! I think what you learn is to stick with it–and if it's a sport you really LOVE–TRY TRY AGAIN! Elle should keep playing soccer on a city league & stick with it. Believe it or not, half of those kide playing in junior high won't even try out in high school. I think half of them get SO burned out because their parents have them doing these sports leagues for years and years! Just stick with it & encourage your children to do what they love & work hard at it–they will be surprised what they can do! (And so will you)! It is so much sweeter (for them and you) when you know that they did it on their own merits & you didn't step in & do things for them! I hope that makes sense. BTW–I found your blog through Christy Jarvis who was in my last ward & we just love their family–and on a side note–my hubby Todd Allen says that your hubby may or may not have tried to beat him up at some point in high school! You'll have to ask him if he remembers that! HA! Thanks for your blog Shawni–I love reading your thoughts on parenting, and love your encouragement on this crazy thing we call motherhood!

  11. Hi Shawine, I came upon your post today and this is something that my husband and I have been discussing. I wanted to share something that my husband shared with me after attending a work related seminar in Chicago. One of the topics they discussed was "helicopter parenting" and how there is a whole generation that has been affected by this. If you google the term you will find a number of articles on this and even a quiz you can take to see if you "helicopter". The sad thing is that these parents think they are providing the best for their kids by meddling. But in the end, they are hurting them and their ability to be self reliant. On Wikipedia it says that these helicopter parents continue to medle in their kids lives, through college and into the work force, to the point of getting involed in salary negotions! They also have terms like 'lawn mowing parenting" where parents try to remove all obsticals from their kids paths. In the church we are taught the importance of self reliance and provident living. If we meddle too much, we deny our children the learning opportunites in life. There are times where we do need to step in and help our kids find and develop the tools they need to be successful. I feel, that more than ever, our kids need to learn things for themsleves so that they cand stand on their own, knowing that we are there for them unconditionally. It is difficult when there are so many kids with parents that meddle too much and it may seem that it puts our kids at a disadvantage at times. But in the long run, those kids who are allowed to learn for themselves, with us cheering them on with love and support, will come out ahead and be more self reliant and confident in life. I think you are doing a great job and laying a strong foundation for your kids. I know thoughts may be a bit jumbled so hopefully it all comes across ok. I am more of a blog stalker than a blogger, but I just wanted to share. I did meet you once at a photo class in Mesa, but I'm sure you don't remember 🙂 I am Andi Gooch's sister. I really enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing your life in blogland.

  12. Great discussion. SO hard to not meddle! But I really do agree that we can't fix everything for our kids, and they shouldn't expect us to. I've got a great story on this…at the end of school last year, I volunteered to help at field day for my son's 3rd grade class. The kids were in partners and my sons partner (though he thinks he's cool) is a bit of a troublemaker. They were playing a game and his partner got carried away and did something the teacher didn't like. She thought they were both participating and sent both my son and him to the sidelines for the rest of the activity. I watched my son go from giddy laughter at the fun game to near tears, as he looked at me, waiting for me to "do something." It was a defining moment for me. Though I knew he was innocent, and I wanted to go tap the teacher on the shoulder to inform her of that, it wasn't my place. In her "classsroom" she is in charge and it wasn't my place to get involved. My son was really sad, he felt wronged, but it wasn't my place to right the situation. Had it been a different circumstance, I might have stepped in, but it was one of those "life isn't fair" moments, and mom can't fix everything. Anyway…just thought I'd share.

  13. I am catching up on reading some of your blog entries! Oh boy, I can relate to this post!! It is so hard to decide when to put in a phone call or just to let thing be!

    My oldest daughter (12 at the time) tried out for a travel volleyball team last year & made it. She turned down the offer because she wanted to try out for another club. The 2nd club ended up not having a team. She was then left without a team. It was a hard lesson, but all in all it worked out well. We spent more time as a family on the ski slopes and she still played for her school this year. She worked very hard this past summer to be ready for her school team. I am not sure if she will continue to play, as she has been very dissatisfied with the coaching this year, which has now soured her taste for the sport.

    It is much more difficult being on the parent end of the sports, than I ever thought possible! One of my posts that comes to mind can be found here: http://cathymarquardt.blogspot.com/2010/04/ugh-label-of-soccer-mom.html

    You seem very balanced! I am sure your kids will make great decisions & that they will find their way in sports and other activities!

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