As sports parents, do you ever feel as if your life is not your own? No one fully prepared me for the fact that becoming a parent would be so all-consuming. And then add to that the complexity of having kids in youth sports and our lives were suddenly not ours anymore; we were at the whim of our kids’ schedules.
We had three children who played sports growing up and their activities became the focus of our lives. We often felt like we were sports parents first, and people second.
As sports parents, it is easy to get lost in the youth sports lives of our kids. Supporting them is undoubtedly our most important job and should demand our best effort. But sometimes sports parents go to the extreme and become “lost” in the lives of their children. They are so wrapped up in their children’s successes and problems that they can’t find themselves anymore and may even question who they really are.
How does that happen? From my own personal experience as a parent for 33 years, a sports mom for 21 and as a parenting coach, I would suggest that there are several signs to look for to determine if your life is lost in your child’s.
You allow their successes and failures to define you as a parent.
Just because your child makes a bad choice does not mean you are a bad parent. Or just because your child is a star athlete or an honor student does not mean that you are Super Mom or Dad.
As a parent, it’s important to determine your core values and boundaries, stick to them, love your kids unconditionally, and recognize that the mistakes and victories they have as they grow up are theirs, not yours.
You’ll know that you’ve taken their successes and failures too personally when you get just as or more upset than they do. I caught myself doing this when my kids didn’t get enough playing time in sports. I would be more bothered by it than they were. When I realized that, I knew that I was letting their ups and downs determine my emotional peace and taking it way harder than they were.
You and your spouse haven’t gone out on a date in weeks or months.
For 38 years, my husband and I have done our very best to keep dating. When the kids were younger, it wasn’t as often as we would have liked it to be, but we still put it on the calendar. We made it a priority and made it work because we knew that was a key to keeping our marriage strong.
There will always be something to pull you away from dating your spouse. Your kids’ games, school events, and work will fill up your calendar quickly. Before that happens, be sure that you sit down at the beginning of the week or month and schedule a date night. Your marriage should not be overshadowed by your kids’ sports lives.
You cannot remember the last time you did something just for your own growth.
Using the illustration of the airline air mask–parents are instructed to put theirs on before they put their kids on–reminds us that if we parents are not caring for ourselves, how can we possibly expect to be engaged and intentional with our kids?
If you do not have a growth outlet, and your life is ONLY about your kids, please find one. You need one to remember who you are as a person. They need you to remember who you are as a person.
There will come a day when your kids are all gone…
They will go to college, get married, move to other cities, and you will feel bereft. If you were a parent who got lost in their kids’ lives, the empty nest will be a shock to you, making you question your purpose and wondering what the heck you are supposed to do with the rest of your life.
Whatever season you are in as a parent, remember this: your children need your time and attention, but they also need you to be YOU, to continue to grow and learn. It’s in your own growth process that you become a better parent.
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