On being the Worst Parent Ever and Teaching Men to Commit

[From the archives]

‘My son once tried to pepper-spray me from under the car seat when we arrived at school.’

This was the quiet comfort of a friend and fellow mini-soccer mom.

She had just witnessed me being That Mom:

The mom dragging her crying, fighting child onto the field to join all the other boys who were neither crying nor fighting and whose moms were surveying them sedately from the shade of the pavilion. The mom enduring the pitying looks of the strapping young coaches who may or may not have overheard the crying, fighting child say, ‘You guys are the Meanest Parents Ever in the Whole World!’

I want to do soccer! Except, now I don’t.

When he was in Grade 0, our youngest was wildly keen to sign up for soccer. His enthusiasm plummeted a couple practices in when he realized that it wasn’t as much fun as he’d thought.

All the other boys in the swarm of dust and boots were better and faster, he said. He got hot and thirsty and tired. What he never got was the ball.

He did also get a bad bout of legit flu, which set him back a bit.

Then began the fake sore tummies. And the fake headaches. And the fake very slow putting on of soccer socks and oh look I’m so late now it’s really not worth going to practice: a.k.a. bunking.

Parental dilemma

To quit or not to quit?

We had some options.

Reaction #1: Take the path of least resistance

Ag shame. You’re so little. Life is so tough. You hate soccer. Plus, it would be so much easier for us all just to go home straight after school. Absolutely, quit soccer.

Reaction #2: Justify quitting from the moral high ground

Let’s not make a big deal out of this. It’s mini-soccer, after all. You’re not even six. Playing or not playing won’t affect your chances of getting into the right varsity. If you just need to play with your puppy in the afternoons, maybe that’s ok. In fact it’s better than ok. It’s better than soccer! Absolutely, quit soccer.

Reaction #3: Make him play

After lots of prayer and lots of are-we-being-ridiculous double-checking and second-guessing, we decided on this one. *Sigh*

We didn’t say it to him in all the italicized words below. We said it in a soccer practice chart on the fridge. We said it in R10 off your pocket money if you don’t go. We said, ‘Take soccer practice five minutes at a time!


But the message we tried to send was –

Life is going to be hard as it is, but it’s going to be unplayable if you get into the habit of giving up too easily when things are difficult, or quitting before you really even start. If something is worth your time, energy and attention, it’s probably going to take hard work, practice and commitment.

Unfortunately we need to be the Meanest Parents Ever in the Whole World, because God gave us the job of teaching you this stuff. If you don’t learn now to follow through and to finish what you start, when and where will you learn it? And then, will it be too late?

So, you don’t have to like soccer. You don’t ever have to play it again. But you signed up for this season, and so this is the season you will finish.

[Also – we have a theory that there are too many gorgeous single Christian women in this world, because there are too many gorgeous single Christian men whose parents never forced them to finish the freakin’ soccer season and so all those gorgeous single Christian men never learned commitment and now they’re *terrified* of commitment but they justify their fear by saying that they won’t be terrified anymore when Bible Barbie shows up because she will be perfect and it won’t be hard to commit to her except that Bible Barbie does not exist and it’s a glorious thing to commit to loving a beautiful, imperfect human. Like I said, just a theory. That is all.]

We can’t predict the future, except to say that we will make lots of mistakes. But we are committed to doing what we can to bring you up to be young men who know what it is to commit.

There’s hope

Just before bedtime on a soccer day that season, I was folding towels at the linen cupboard. Our Scott of the great soccer debacle came up behind me – just stood there watching me. I turned around to smile into his wide ocean eyes. He tackled my kneecaps in a fierce hug and blurted softly,

‘I love you more than anything!’

And I thought, being the Meanest Parent Ever in the Whole World isn’t half bad.


. . .

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  1. So glad you reposted this one today! We’ve been having a similar situation – tennis though – and I’d forgotten the finer points of this post.


  2. Just a suggestion, but maybe: “there are too many gorgeous single Christian women in this world, because there are too many gorgeous single Christian men whose parents **did** force them to finish the freakin’ soccer season” and now instead of not knowing how to commit, they have been confronted with its weightiness all their lives and they’re not ready to take a chance on something that involves commitment. Maybe forcing children to finish the freakin’ soccer season produces a fear of commitment?


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