I’m a good mom.
I keep my four kids healthy. I oversee virtual learning. I try not to yell. I start the peel of their oranges. I get them to fold their laundry or, at least, put it away. I make them the purple box kind of mac ‘n cheese and, every couple of months, a big batch of my daughter's favorite shells to freeze. I try to have patience. I give them boundaries. I (usually) enforce them. I bake them cakes on their birthdays. I occasionally (okay, rarely) take them out for ice cream. I get them to brush their teeth. Most of the time. Last weekend, we staged an at-home episode of Supermarket Sweep. (As host, I wore a turtleneck under my sweater; Brooklyn found the Triple Bonus, and Ella and Lucas won by a Reese's cup masquerading as a ham.)
I’m doing the best I can.
A few months ago, my husband and I decided to let our older two play soccer. We went back and forth, but ultimately offered them a safe outlet to their 24-hours trapped at home in front of their school laptops, especially before a tough winter. The team played outdoors. The girls wore masks. They didn’t see Grandma and Grandpa for a couple of months.
I emailed Brooklyn’s coach from last year to see if he would coach again. He would. He was amazing.
I’m not just saying that. I know good coaches and I know great coaches. As a collegiate athlete, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the phenomenal coaches along the way. My dad. A mix of caring and overwhelmingly tough ones in high school. A year under one of the best college coaches in the country. Bar none. (Who also has four kids, I might add!)
In just two months with her coach, Brooklyn improved by leaps and bounds. Her confidence skyrocketed. She may not have been the star player, but she pushed herself to learn from that girl. Brooklyn acquired a little footwork. She used her given speed to race past others. She had a fantastic attitude, even when hit in the face by the ball. (Goal denied!)
After the season, Brooklyn’s coach wrote me a really nice and completely unexpected email:
“I was very proud of Brooklyn this season. Not only did she score the winning goals when we needed her most, but most importantly I was proud of how she composed herself when [star player] was not playing. Prior to our first game without [said soccer phenom], I pulled Brooklyn aside and told her I needed a big game from her. Her response was priceless. She told me with a calm look, "Coach, my mom told me I need to step up today and be a leader so that’s what I will do." Brooklyn is a special girl and fun to coach. Also, faster than most of my u14 girls from goal post to goal post, which I’m sure she told you.”
Let me break this down. This man took his time to coach a gangly group of eight- and nine-year old girls (and one all-star) three times a week—along with another team that included his older daughter—during a pandemic, with the support of his pregnant wife. He treated my daughter with respect and helped her improve immensely. He was a good dad in his own home, yet he recognized the importance of sports to build confidence in these impressionable young girls. Then, he managed to send me a thoughtful email about my daughter’s growth and attitude. He complimented my daughter, my parenting, and, to avoid either of us getting too big of a head, he humbled us and made me laugh.
Coaches are incredible.
The most successful ones are those who push us, who encourage us, who help us be the person we’re meant to be. I won’t touch the many benefits of playing sports (health, teamwork, learning to win and lose, to name a few), but a good coach does all of that AND some. They are the mentors, the cheerleaders, the drill sergeants, and (rarely, sometimes?) the friend. Great coaches have an attitude, a calling, a patience, and an untouchable warmness that drives others to succeed.
Sometimes, that’s even people beyond their team. With his note, her coach also coached me. Sometimes even moms need coaching.
I may be a good mom and, sure, I’m trying my hardest, but that doesn’t mean I can’t improve. If my coaches have taught me anything, it’s that I can always be better. His email inspired me to write my own note, since I need to better show my daughter how incredible I think she is. In it, I shared how much I love her, how proud I am to be her mother, and how amazing I think she is. She’ll probably gag when she reads it.
Inside, she’ll be tickled.
I didn’t write it because she’s more exceptional than any other kid. Nor because I’m better than a good mom. I wrote it because I can always do better. I can always grow. Life is a journey and a game we all can win. From my great coaches, I learned that we need to celebrate victories and improve after a loss.
As a high school freshman, my assistant volleyball coach pulled me aside one practice. “Kaitlyn,” she said. “You’re not that tall. You're just a good jumper. You need to be our best passer. You can be our best server. Use your determination and focus. Get better every day and you'll play in college.” I did.
As a parent, I don’t need to work harder. I don’t need to do more. But I can improve. I can learn from the coaches in my life. The friends who have some parenting techniques I can copy. The mentors at work who guide me to follow my dreams and stay true to my values. My own mom. My sister.
After an undefeated season, Brooklyn’s coach proudly gave them the medals they earned. We should pat ourselves on the back for how much we’ve accomplished and how hard we work. Whether your celebration is a glass of wine at the end of the day, a slice of cake, or a good book, you deserve it.
Brooklyn is one of my victories.
She’s also only in her own first quarter. I can’t say whether she’ll be a doctor, a pro athlete, give me tons of grandkids, or live in my basement forever watching reruns of Supermarket Sweep. Whatever she chooses, I will love her. I’ll be there. She’ll know that I’m proud of her. She’ll know that I think she’s the most amazing person in the world. As she should.
As for me, I’m a good mom. With just a bit more coaching and practice, I’ll become a great one.