Being a mom of three healthy, happy kids is a wonderful thing. I am truly blessed, and I’m very thankful. It is something I will never take for granted.
But no one prepared me for the chaos that comes with being a parent of three happy, healthy children who are also VERY active nearly year-round. I am practically exhausted most of the time. Still I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
And while, there are lots of things to keep kids busy these days — dance, 4H, gymnastics, music — my kiddos settled into sports at an early age.
For our boys — Hudson and Quinn — playing a sport was almost innate to them. They have tried nearly everything that was available since they were first old enough to sign up. Soccer, T-ball, flag football … they have been willing to do it all. And they enjoyed it.
Our daughter Gillian was different. Neither basketball, softball, or soccer appealed to her. She did a few years of dance lessons, and took tumbling classes, too. And while she enjoyed those things, she never became passionate about them. Needless to say, she spent a lot of years tagging along to football games, baseball games, and soccer matches in support of her younger brothers.
But in fifth grade Gillian discovered volleyball. And she never looked back. It just clicked. Volleyball was finally something that she wanted to try, and it was all her idea. She has played practically year round since then. Not because we have forced it on her, but because she enjoys it that much. It’s what she wants to do.
And it has been the same with our boys. Travel teams, seasonal teams, all-star teams. They have both done it all and enjoyed every second of it.
As a parent, I have too.
As any parent knows, that enjoyment comes with sacrifice. We don’t take vacations like most families. Not only because our money is wrapped up in funding the passions of our kids, but our time is spent there also. I have spent the past five summers straight traveling to the Little League State baseball tournament in nearly every corner of Ohio. Bryan, Ashtabula, Boardman, Dayton, and Ironton … Those have been our vacation spots.
In the winter, we are either at a basketball game or a volleyball tournament. Often with my husband going one direction, and me going another so we can be sure that one of us is there watching.
And still, with all the insanity, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Anyone who knows my daughter, knows the quiet and reserved girl that she is at all times. That changes when she steps on the volleyball court. She gets vocal. She gets mad and frustrated and happy all in the course of one set. She has learned to trust what her coaches think of her and push herself in ways she didn’t know she was able to.
She has taken the good with the bad. She has been hurt by teammates and coaches over the years. She has cried and it hasn’t always been easy.
It’s been pretty much the same for the boys.
They have worked hard, and sometimes not so hard. They have also had good coaches and bad coaches. They have had to sit the bench. They have also seen the reward to playing time when they work hard and give their best effort.
So, while many parents may not understand, and sometimes my husband and I think we must be lunatics, what I have come to see from all of my kids activities is one major reward.
My kids have learned life’s lessons at a young age.
Things don’t always go the way you think that they should. And it stinks.
Coaches (bosses) in a leadership role don’t always do the right thing.
Teammates (co-workers) don’t always treat each other as a part of the team.
As a parent, it has been painful at times to watch these things happen. Watching your son or daughter’s heart break at the hands of someone else is excruciating. But I have also been afforded the benefit of seeing them rise above and be the bigger person. It truly makes your heart swell to watch.
And while we have had our bad experiences, the good ones far outweigh the bad. All three of my kids have had the benefit of coaches and teammates who truly care. Coaches who not only teach, but can laugh and cry right along with them in the good and bad times.
My kids are not the best player on any of the teams that they are a part of, and that is just fine. Being the best is not what any of this has been about.
We want them to focus on themselves. We want them to better themselves because that is the only thing they truly have control over. Learn to contribute where they are needed, and do their best at that. Take the good with the bad, and learn from it.
Because, while I am (usually) enjoying the chaos that my busy kids bring to my life, the years are fleeting. This insanity won’t last forever. Volleyball, baseball, and basketball will end all too soon and real life will take over.
My biggest hope is that when it happens, they look back on it with a smile. And then use the memories, both good and bad, to continue to better themselves as a wife, a husband, a mother, a father, and as a worker.
And that will make my heart swell again.
Erin Miller is a reporter and photographer for the Galion Inquirer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 419-468-1117, ext. 2049