I DO Care, But I Still Love Him

jacklibrary

“I don’t care if my kids play sports, I just want them to be happy.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say this, often some of my best friends, and almost always the parents of kids who are playing sports and loving it. This comment is usually a part of an explanation as to why they have their kids playing a sport year round at 9 years old or when they are telling me that their kids WANT to participate in 2 different leagues that require practice 4-5 nights a week. Essentially, it is always the parents whose kids ARE playing sports who say they don’t care. And always I wonder…would they say that if their kids DIDN’T play sports?

Tonight, as I was walking around the neighborhood after dark on a pretty crisp January night for North Carolina, I heard the bounce of a basketball. I followed the sound until I found one of the neighbor boys, a middle school aged kid, shooting baskets in his driveway by the light of the streetlight by himself. I was instantly taken back to my middle school days when I would shovel the neighbor’s driveway in the winter so I could shoot baskets on their garage hoop because I didn’t have one of my own. They had a light on the corner of the garage that lit up just enough of the driveway to see and I knew how to get in the garage and turn that light on (and they were patient enough to let me keep on shooting). It was where I first started to really love the game, where I first honed my skills, and where I first dreamed of playing college basketball (for Lou Henson and the Flying Illini!) Watching that boy shoot hoops in his driveway reminded me how much joy the game brought me as a youngster.

My wife and I both achieved many of our athletic goals – we were both scholarship athletes in our sports in college, we both coached at the high school and collegiate levels, and we both worked in big time college athletic departments. Sports were and remain a big part of our lives and who we are as people. To this day, I earn my living working with sports organizations at the college and pro level.

The thing is, despite our passions, abilities, and interests, our kids (ages 9 and 6) don’t play sports. Our kids aren’t even really that interested in sports. We’ve tried to make them play…not interested. It isn’t that they aren’t athletic – both are in the top 10% of height and weight for their age and both run and play around outside all the time. They just don’t play sports.

And I DO CARE! It bothers me. It makes me sad that I don’t have to call them in from the driveway for bed or tell them we have to stop playing catch because it is getting dark. It makes me sad because both Jessi and I have experienced first hand the value of team sports and are the people we are today because of our sports. But as I walked home tonight, I also realized that I LOVE THEM ANYWAY.

The picture above pretty much sums up my son, Jack. He’s happiest in a book store, sitting quietly by himself or playing in his imagination in a solo world. My daughter teaches her baby dolls all sorts of lessons and tags along with her big brother on his neighborhood exploring, which seems to be her happiest moments. And I’m learning to appreciate what makes them who they are and what makes them happy. But I’m not going to lie about how I feel about them not playing sports – I do care, but I love them anyway.

I hope that parents who say they don’t care will just stop and instead admit that they DO CARE and stop apologizing for it. It’s just what they enjoy doing right now and all you really should do is love them. Just be sensitive to what they really WANT to do and when they do want to stop playing sports, whether they verbalize it or not, let them. While they do want to play, encourage them but don’t overdo it, because when they stop you’ll realize that your really DO CARE and it may make you sad when they don’t.

Teachers

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It’s the first day of school and while I’m excited for my fourth and first grade children to kick the year off, I’m praying especially for their teachers today.

Teachers are perhaps the most important adults in our children’s lives after their parents (and in some cases more than their parents). Teachers definitely deserve more than they get in so many ways. And teachers have a HARD job.

I cannot imagine the difficulty teachers face everyday in dealing with all of the different backgrounds and circumstances that show up in their classrooms every morning. Most of us spend the majority of our day with adults. While the adults in our lives certainly bring baggage to the workplace that affects who they are and their performance, they are ADULTS, and most of them are able to put those things aside long enough to get their work done. But a teacher is dealing with kids who have all manner of challenges in their lives and aren’t emotionally mature enough to know how to deal yet.

Can you imagine having a classroom of 25 9 year olds? Now, how about if half of them have parents living in different houses? What if 4-5 of them didn’t eat much for dinner last night or didn’t get breakfast before school because money is tight at home? What if another 3-4 are sexually or physically abused by an older sibling, neighbor, or uncle? How about the 8 or so that have learning disabilities but are ashamed of it so they try to hide it? Not to mention the 15-20 that are so insecure and nervous most days that just getting on the bus is a challenge to overcome.

I don’t want to think about the baggage that I pile on my fourth grader when I lose my patience with him in the morning about getting his shoes on or getting his teeth brushed. What kind of challenge am I handing his teacher by dismissively telling him he won’t have any trouble making friends this year when I know that it is one of his biggest fears? I can only imagine what state some of our kids show up in emotionally every morning.

So this morning, I’m praying for teachers. I’m praying that they have patience beyond any reasonable human allotment. I’m praying that they can discern the difference between struggling and troubled. I’m praying that they are flexible enough to provide all of those different kids the space to learn in their own unique way. I’m praying that they are firm enough to instill discipline and boundaries because kids are longing for it. I’m praying that they will inspire my kids and all of the kids they teach the way many of my teachers inspired me.

And this morning, I’m thankful for teachers. Thankful for Mrs. Kaveney, my third grade teacher who had the courage to tell my parents she thought I should be held back even when my academic numbers said differently. Thankful for a group of junior high teachers at Metcalf School who didn’t let me coast by when they saw I had academic potential but cared more about sports. Thankful for Coach Hubbard who modeled for me how to treating kids with respect on the court earned their respect on and off. Thankful for Ms. Scott, the best teacher I ever had, the one who instilled a passion for history in me, and the most influential adult in my life who I don’t share a last name with. And thankful for Tim Dillon, my Milligan College American History professor and mentor who not only taught from a place of passion, but cared for his students from a place of passion.

Today will be a great day for my kids because of the caring of their teachers and I am who I am today because of the teachers who cared for me. Pray for your teachers and the teachers of others today and every day.