Sideline Lessons

building community

Soccer parents, probably like swim or football or baseball or volleyball parents, spend plenty of time on the sidelines. When my kids were younger, and keeping score was an afterthought, when trophies meant nothing more than that this team had existed, sidelines saved my sanity.

On the sidelines, I learned that I was not the worst parent in the world for requiring my children to actually DO the reading work they had been assigned. I discovered, sitting along the painted white line, that most of the anxiety I had about my weird brood was echoed by every other frazzled mom sitting in a nylon chair and wishing she could just sit and read her book.

I learned, too, the simple sense of relief that comes from asking for help. Most times, I also had the added bonus getting the help I had requested. When we surrender the idea that we don’t know everything, and that we can’t do everything we are liberated to the knowledge and generosity of those around us. Whether parenting advice or an offer to keep on the kids for an afternoon, a bag of hand-me-down uniforms or a kind word, the soccer sideline was a sort of braintrust of compassion and ideas.

I joked this weekend on the sidelines that 50 to 90 per cent of the decisions I made as a parent were mistakes. (I like to give myself a wide berth and low standards.)

Really, what I was trying to express is that often I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants, making up this parenting thing as I go along. But here, on the sidelines which had become\a parental confessional were we compared notes on our prickly tweens, I felt reassured.

On Monday, I had a parenting pickle that I felt required some outside expertise. I was thankful for the countless hours on the sideline engaged in impromptu parenting class, because I remembered how to ask for help, and so I did.

I asked the principal of our daughter’s high school for some advice on a minor but annoying issue we are currently enjoying with our eldest precious darling.

Within an hour, I had received not a cursory reply but a rather in depth explanation of the school policy for this issue and ways to encourage the kid at home. Her solution was genius, because her solution focused on balancing autonomy and community responsibility. A few short conversations later and we had a happy kid, no drama and a workable solution*.

What I find interesting about the communities we build as our children become involved in the world around them is that there is a wealth of genius just ready to be accessed. We may only see each other once or twice a week and for a few hours on a Saturday, but we talk. And we listen. And we learn.

Where have you found unexpected wisdom?

*We have  solution. Whether we have long term change remains to be seen. That will come with time and prayer.