If only gatorade had self-confidence, not just sugar and electrolytes
While we were waiting for the second day of soccer camp to start, my eight-year old and I were watching some grown men finish up their soccer match. The goalie flung himself at shots coming full-bore towards his face, making one brilliant save after another.
“I’ll never be that good,” Caleb said, doodling his own ball with his foot. “I was the worst one yesterday.”
I pointed out that the goalie was probably thirty and had been playing for a long time, but Caleb was unconvinced.
If we still lived in the U.S., Caleb might have wanted to play baseball—he loves to hit things with sticks—but in Abu Dhabi, where we live now, the ball-and-stick game of choice is cricket, not baseball. And Caleb has decided that cricket is “lame” (the fact that 75% of the civilized world is cricket-crazy is irrelevant to him). So soccer it is.
When I’ve asked Caleb if he wants to find another sport, or stop playing sports altogether, he looks at me as if my head had just fallen off. “That’s ridiculous, mommy,” he said to me. “I love soccer.” I wonder, though, if he really does love soccer or if he thinks he has to love soccer because his older brother loves soccer: I worry that my younger son feels like he has to follow his brother’s path instead of finding his own road.
“Liam has always been good at soccer,” Caleb said. “He’s always going to be better than me.”
There it was. One of those existential parenting crises that always strike when you’re least prepared: a park bench at 8:20AM and me with nowhere near enough coffee to construct a careful answer.
What do you do?
Do you address the logic of the statement, point out that in fact Older Brother was not always good at soccer…and also that he’d had a head start on “being good” because he was four years older?
Or do you address the feeling? Try to talk to the eight-year old about his feelings of worry and inadequacy? Try to bolster his confidence, encourage him to try his best and have fun? Although as we all know, it’s hard to have fun at something that you feel you don’t do well (which is why I don’t play darts, pool, or anything requiring too much of the ol’ hand-eye coordination. Ditto math).
Do I trot out that old saying from Henry Ford, about “whether you say you can or say you can’t, you’re probably right?” (Although given Ford’s anti-semitic, anti-union, anti-everything but profit attitudes, I’m not sure anyone should follow his advice.)
Under-caffeinated and worried about my little boy, who wants so badly to be A Big Kid, I tried a little bit of everything, wishing that I could sprinkle self-confidence powder into his Gatorade.
Caleb trudged off to join his coach, and I sat there for a while, watching the beginning of the practice. To my inexpert eye, Caleb didn’t look like the best player on the field, but I don’t think he looked like the worst, either.
But unfortunately, he doesn’t see himself through my eyes.