But then the impossible happens. Someone breaks away from the crowd. She kicks it out in front of her and as she chases the ball down, she is suddenly close to the goal. She takes a shot!
Only to miss. Just another shot on goal. All that work down the field for nothing!
Or is it?
As I listen to the coach encourage my kids, I realize the agony and the ecstasy on the field is teaching me some good parenting lessons. My life is a million small shots on goal. Usually, I shank it to the side or I overshoot the goal. Does this mean that I’m wasting my time and energy? Is this all for nothing? I hope not. When I think about those metaphoric shots on goal, I try to follow remember the encouraging words of some of my favorite life coaches:
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky
I like the way Maya Angelou said it, too: “Life loves the liver of it.” I’ve lived long enough to see nothing happens unless I try to do something…anything. Of course, the more risks you take, the more likely it is that you will fail. Sometimes I have let the fear of failure paralyze me, until I realized failures are just the tolls we pay on the road to success. The sooner you get moving down that road, the sooner you will succeed.
What does this look like in parenting? What are the risks we, as mothers, take? For me, it’s the risk of investing emotional energy into my kids. Going all in. I create chore charts and push for family vacations. I chop vegetables for a family dinner and read bedtime stories. I turn off the radio in the car to ask about the day and I turn the radio up and sing along. I don’t know which of these things will lead to success in family life. Maybe none of them. Maybe all of them. Whatever it is, I want to take a shot.
“Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill
Just like soccer, parenting is an exercise in sustaining optimism in the face of small failures. We bring kids into this world believing that they will thrive and we’ll be able to help them become good people. But then our day-to-day interactions start to eat away at this optimism. A tantrum here, a teenage lie there, a snap of the temper and suddenly self-doubt creeps in. Am I up to this task?
After these disappointments, I try to do what my son does after each shot on goal: sigh a little, turn, run up field and get back in the game believing that the next time down the field, I’ll find a way to make a shot.
“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” Babe Ruth
While, statistically, this may not be true in soccer, it feels true in life. I can only fail so many times before I start believing I’m due for success. Of course, that success might not be exactly as I envisioned, especially when it comes to my nearest and dearest. Since a family is a delightful mess, I have to be open to whatever that success looks like.
Henry David Thoreau, a philosopher and life-long advocate of taking shots on goal, said, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
I have seen some of those unexpected successes in the many common hours of mothering. Out of nowhere I will get a spontaneous hug from my son and an “Oh, Mom, I love you!” or “I tried to be kind like you said!” or “Remember when you forced us to go camping? I’ll never forget that!” And inside I hear the stadium roar: “GOAAAALLLLL!”
QUESTION: How do you sustain your optimism when it appears your efforts are a series of small failures? When do you feel as if you’ve had success?
CHALLENGE: Consider your definition of family success, focusing less on achievements and more on attitudes and interactions. Decide you’ll be open to whatever success looks like for your family. Plan any course corrections, if necessary, to keep you moving towards success.
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