A dozen or so years ago, my kids wanted to play soccer. We enrolled them in a league where scores weren’t kept (officially), and where every child received a trophy at the end of the season. I loved watching my kids play. Lisa gave it her very best effort every time. She wasn’t the best player on her teams, but she loved being out there as part of a team and constantly encouraged her teammates. Michael was pretty good. Small, fast, quick and agile, he would begin dribbling the ball downfield, gliding between the kids on the other team, break into the open field…and then muff the shot. He was slightly pigeon-toed, and couldn’t get his foot in the right position to kick the ball sharply.

The second (and last) of those seasons, unfortunately, I coached Michael’s team. A parent will be one of two types of coach to his own child. He will either be too easy, or too hard, and unfortunately, I was the latter.

As much fun as they were to watch, watching  Michael play goalie was exasperating, especially for me. The next-to-last thing a kid with ADHD needs, when playing goalie while off his medication, is to be left alone with time for his mind to wander when butterflies and dragonflies flitter past his head, or for ants to march in their precision formations at his feet. The last thing is a dad who’s also his coach.

I would let my frustration with him flow freely. “Michael! Here comes the ball!” “Michael! Stop chasing that dragonfly/running from that bee!” “Michael…” “Michael!!…”  “MICHAELLLLLL!!!!!”

Yvonne was embarrassed by and for me. I’m surprised she continued coming to the games, except that she knew he needed someone who wouldn’t be critical of him. Looking back, I just shake my head in disgust at myself.

So many years later, my kids are grown. I think I have grown out of that phase somewhat, although it hasn’t been easy. As our kids mature, and as they go through the challenges and heartaches that come with young adulthood, I so want to tell them how to fix things. I so want to “take over” and push them through life, but I can’t. I can offer suggestions, ideas, even insights from my own life, but I have to be careful not to get preachy. Now, when they really need it, I need to be less a coach, and more a friend. (Maybe I’ll get the chance to combine those roles, but only if they ask .)

Good parents train their to kids, hopefully, to be conscientious and polite, to be thankful for the good fortune of living in America, but then we have to watch from more of a distance than we’d like as they learn the same lessons we did, and maybe more, in what I think is a much harder world than we knew at their ages. We want to pick them up; dust them off; send them back out there. But the truth is that now it’s all on them.

God bless them as they fly, and give us strong hearts and faith as we stand by, breathless, awaiting their discoveries and standing by to pick up the pieces.

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