My son, who is 5 (and 3/4 he would chime in proudly) is on a t-ball team this Spring. When we got to our first practice I was relieved to find our assigned team a perfect match for him. There was no expectation that you compose yourself when it wasn’t your turn to have adult attention on you. Instead of picking flowers and playing in the dirt the waiting boys and girls wrestled and climbed fences. The coach’s style was a little disorganized for my taste, but if resulted in a shame-free team sport experience I could deal with not finding out about the first game time until the night before.
Over the last couple of weeks our sweet coach either noticed what I had noticed (that all of the other teams were improving greatly and game experiences were tightening up–and we weren’t) or I had said something snotty about our team being disorganized within earshot of someone close to her (oops)… either way, she’s trying to shape a different team culture. It showed up for us last Friday when she approached me after class and whined (literally) “he doesn’t listen to me.”
I laughed “he doesn’t listen to me either!”
She didn’t even crack a smile.
“I’m sorry. What do you need him to do or know?”
She went on to say he needs to keep his glove on so he can catch the ball without getting hurt and then repeated at least four more times that he “doesn’t listen!” Tiring of the “I want your kid to do what I say when I say it without having to earn his trust or respect” feedback, I asked again if there was anything else she needed him to know she just repeated “he doesn’t listen.” Finally, I responded while not very effectively holding back my eye roll “yeah, just listening when we want him to isn’t his thing. But I’ll take care of the glove issue.”
And I did. We talked about it. I explained why it was important. He explained why he didn’t want to. I validated his experience. We talked about the role of a coach and respect and trust. He asked a lot of questions. I asked him to try it coach’s way–he agreed.
And he did. At the game the next day he rocked it! He was focused for the entire game, played an important role at both 3rd base and as catcher, caught every ball that came his way, and knocked the snot out of the balls at bat.
As we were walking to the car I was affirming his effort and the results and asking him how he felt about the game. He felt great. It was fun!
“ooh! you’re not supposed to call me baby anymore!”
“oh yeah, sorry. yes sir?”
“I had a good game today but I was bad at practice yesterday, so it doesn’t count.”
(sad face) <--mine, not his. He's still young enough to live life mostly objectively. I guess he internalized the coach's whining about his "not listening" more than I realized. Note to self: child is listening while dancing and singing to himself 10 feet away.
But a moment later (excitement) <--again mine because this is what came out of my mouth.
"Oh babe," (oops, it's a hard habit to break) "all that matters is today."What happened yesterday is over now. Today is a chance to do things the way you want to do them. To try new things. To learn something new. What happened yesterday doesn’t take anything away from today, the only thing that matters is today.
He totally went for it. And it was one of those moments when you get to see a lifelong value form in your child’s brain from something you said (in a good way, believe me–there are some other moments where the imprint doesn’t feel as good).
And the best part is that this isn’t just 5 (and 3/4) year old wisdom. It’s true for all of us.
All that matters is today. Regret about yesterday is a map toward righting a wrong. Fear from yesterday is an opportunity to be brave. Hurt from yesterday is ready to be healed by a new experience.
All that matters is today.