To the Other Mom in the Bleachers: I’m Not Keeping Score


My son is a lot of things – kind, smart, funny. Notice that athletic didn’t make the list.

He doesn’t even fall in the “sports are really hard but I’m going to keep trying with all my might until I get it” category. He is athletically aloof. He offers physical but not emotional sweat to the game. He would much rather let you take your turn and then take his own turn than to spar over the ball.

I know your son runs with everything he has on the field giving 100% focus and determination. He has a natural sense of how to position himself with respect to the ball and the other players. I think it’s great and is so fun to watch. We’ve got none of that going on over here.

I know you don’t understand why we signed up to play sports this season or why he seems not to care. And that’s ok. So let me explain.

First of all, he cares. He cares about being part of a team and working together with friends. He’s just not particularly concerned about winning. And while he says, “it’s fine” at all the games he didn’t score, the joy when he does is undeniable.

He’s learning how to use his strengths and face his challenges. On the field and in life, he likes to observe and carefully chose how to respond. While all the other kids are clamoring for their turn on offense, he’s content to stay on defense. At the beginning of soccer season, he would position himself defensively but always freeze before he got to the ball. By the end of the season, he ran to and through the ball…with his eyes open.

He’s unable to check his empathy at the bench. He has a big heart that he wears on his sleeve along with the hearts of everyone else on the field. It means that he’s not going to initiate running by someone to get to the goal, but it also means that off the field he’s not going to do it either.

I’m not trying to raise the next Olympian.

I am totally satisfied with never being the focus of one of those tear-jerking P&G commercials. I am trying to raise a well-balanced child – one that can try things that don’t come easily, be true to himself, support others, and be comfortable enough to jump into a pickup game with friends later in life.

While the game stats might not show his progress, his confidence is growing.

During the last weeks of school this year he came bounding off the bus and exclaimed,

“I asked the older kids on the playground today if I could play (fill in the random made-up playground sport with a ball). They said yes. And I scored a GOAL! And then I got to play goalie and stopped all. the. balls. All of ‘em, Mom! It was the best day.”

None of the other kids on the playground probably even remember him playing. But he does.

I’m thankful the other kids don’t require greatness as a prerequisite for participation.

I’m thankful that he can share the field with and learn from your son. And I’m thankful to share the bleachers with you as we celebrate how perfectly different our children are. And that it’s ok.