Sunday, May 22, 2011

In the Name of the Game

When your child plays sports, you know that injuries are inevitable. Still, you push that possibility to the far reaches of your mind, reassuring yourself with probabilities vs. possibilities.

Yesterday, two of my daughter's teammates sustained injuries in a basketball tournament. Neither injury was serious - both girls were seen by physicians and well enough to participate in a team party a few hours later. One girl broke her finger, which will keep her off the court for two weeks. She was more upset by the two week rule than the broken bone. The other strained ligaments in her knee, and was laughing about how her mom freaked out when she got hurt. My daughter jammed her finger - not for the first time, and surely not for the last.

As a parent, I try to take these things in stride, not make mountains out of molehills and not communicate my fears to my child. I tell her to have fun, and the coaches tell her to play hard. And every time a child hits her head, I try not to think about how many concussions a child can sustain before damage occurs, about the price these athletes pay in the name of the game.

On Monday, my daughter will go kayaking as part of a school trip. Recent rains have swelled the river, along with my fears. It's a school-sanctioned trip, I tell myself. They'll be wearing lifejackets, taking precautions. Her teacher has taken kids on this trip before and can vouch for its safety.

Throughout our children's lives, we let them go a little at a time. Into the back yard, onto the basketball court, on overnight trips and sleepovers. We try to temper fear with rationality, to let our kids take supervised risks, while we hold our breath and reassure ourselves that we've given the right speeches, and have taken the necessary precautions. We're proud of their accomplishments, particularly as we watch them excel at things we never dared attempt.

Whoever said parenthood isn't for wimps wasn't kidding. If you told a mother in labor that this is only the beginning, that the challenges ahead will stab at her heart the way contractions stab at her womb...well, she'd probably hurt you. But the truth is, while parenting gets easier in some ways, in other ways, it becomes more difficult. It hardly seems fair that after pushing a child out of the womb, you spend the next 18 years preparting her to enter the world in a whole new way. And as a parent, you hope all the pain will be yours, if only you can spare your child, if only that second entry can be as painless for her as the first.

Today, my daughter was scheduled to play again, but she wasn't feeling well. Despite the speeches about commitment and teamwork that are a standard part of my parental repertoire, it wasn't difficult for me to let her off the hook today. I texted her coach, apologizing for her inability to play, and heaving a sigh of relief that for just one afternoon, I could safely put her in a bubble.

With any luck, that will make it easier for me to let her teacher put her in kayak tomorrow.


  1. So well said!! Parenting is emotionally exhausting, and the hardest thing I've ever done. Letting go can be heartbreaking.

    And yet - your kayaking story makes me think of when I was 13 and went river rafting. The vivid, indelible memories are ones in which our parents let go.

  2. borrow from When Harry Met Sally - "You're right, you're right. I know you're right." And since I have no intention of going kayaking myself any time soon, this is her best shot. The trip ended up being postponed because the river was flowing too fast for safe kayaking, so she'll be going (and I'll be worrying) next week.