by Brave Writer mom, Karen
Hi, Brave Writer community. To encourage you all, here’s a sweaty picture of me (above) being “enough” playing with my son on the squash courts at our local YMCA. Please allow me to explain why I would think to share it here.
I was the girl in high school who was picked second to last for high school games in P.E. every week, for four years. Four long, humiliating, years. It fed right into my insecurities about my body and athleticism. These past few months my son’s enthusiasm for sports has grown insatiable and I have been forced to reckon with my old high school self; apologetically practicing warm ups, basketball shoots & tricks, attending practice and games—taking him to the squash courts whenever our schedule permits, practicing pickle ball with the “silver sneaker” crowd, and taking him to Zumba classes.
Julie’s [broadcast] today echoed in my heart as my son & I hit the racquetball courts this morning—a follow through on yesterday’s promise. I missed the ball dozens of times and hit it in directions I never aimed for. Honestly, I must have been comical to watch. The ball would bounce between my legs, under my arms and fly across the tip of my racket with almost every lunge and swift swing I made. While we were having fun early on, I sensed frustration and feelings of incompetency building inside of me, threatening to end the fun we were having.
At one point I began to seriously doubt my competency in supporting my son’s interests. What stopped me was Julie’s words of not waiting for or wanting a future better self but loving the best version of ourselves today—a message echoed in readings I happen to have been doing this past year, too. It was at this point I remembered my son and I were free to practice according to our own rules. It didn’t matter if I was using the court correctly or not, or if the ball bounced more than once before it was returned. It didn’t matter if the ball ricocheted from floor to wall, wall to ceiling.
It didn’t matter how we played.
It just mattered that we were playing.
Our strategy became, “Don’t let the ball roll—keep it moving, keep it bouncing. Keep it moving.” And with new rules in place, fear yielded to fun and more learning took place. I could tell that with each “error” we were making we were learning how to adjust our aim and our step. And then I began to see learning that reached beyond any attempt of actually playing a game too—I was betting that we were both also learning about the principles of physics and geometry too. What mattered was not how good I was at sports, or how fast the gains my son was making, but that we were willing participants.
With this tenet in mind, it became clear that my son would progress at his own rate regardless of my skill; not slower because of me. And that idea is very freeing for me. It’s easy to view our feelings of incompetency as barriers to learning and teaching, but if we can find a way of viewing things from the act of participating rather than abstaining, I think it helps us give way to discomfort and allows for learning to take hold.