Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sideline Support

My daughter is second from the left.
Her 2nd sparring partner is 2nd from the right.

“If you make every game a life and death proposition, you’re going to have problems. For one thing, you’ll be dead a lot.”

- Dean Smith

My eight-year-old daughter participated in her first Taekwondo tournament this weekend. She confirmed she’d do her forms, but she didn’t know if she’d spar. Sparring has been a challenge for her because it’s against the kind of person she is.

From an early age, I’d describe her as: Generous. Fair.

As a toddler, if someone asked her for a potato chip, she’d hand out a big one.

If she has food or toys to split for a game, she made sure everyone had the same amount.

She lets her playmates get first choice.

If playing a board game, she lets the other person go first.

In soccer, she had a hard time with the concept of stealing the ball from an opponent.

In sparring, it was hard for her to be aggressive. But Taekwondo has helped her harness her inner-fierceness into competitiveness.

We sat in the middle near a group of women with girls about my daughter’s age. I noticed one girl about my daughter’s size shared my daughter’s name. I forgot about it.

My daughter did her forms to the left. She was nervous but did okay considering it was her first tournament.

One of her coaches convinced her to spar. Buoyed from doing her forms, she agreed. Her first match went well. She won. I was so proud of her and she was beaming.

Here and there, I noticed the women near me shouting for their girls louder and more aggressively than any of the other parents. The mother of the girl who shared my name was particularly vocal. It reminded me of when I was a kid playing soccer, and there was always a parent or two who cared way too much. I’d feel sorry for those kids because they were under more pressure than me. And my dad was the coach!

My daughter rose to spar in the second round.

So did the girl who shared her name.

The mothers shouted the girl’s name. When they realized both girls had the same name, they added “D” for her last name. My husband, two other parents from our Taekwondo place, my son and I all cheered for my daughter, even adding “M”. We used her nickname “Bee”.

But we were drowned out.

My husband went closer in hopes of being louder.

The women stomped their feet.

When my daughter got a point for a kick, the mother shouted, “That wasn’t fair. I’m going to speak to that judge.”

My daughter was clearly thrown off. The other girl a stronger opponent and the crowd was against her.

Then the girl gave my daughter a kick, and she fell to the floor.

I knew my baby was holding it in. As soon as the matched was called, she went to the sidelines, sat down, and cried. Her coaches came over. Her brother came over after them. She calmed down.

I felt helpless.

I wanted to run over and hug her.

I wanted to YELL at those women.

During the final round, those mothers were just as cutthroat. The girl with the same name lost. Her mom clearly disappointed that she only received a silver medal.

When it was over, my daughter came to me. I held her close.

“Nobody said my name,” she said.

(My heart breaks here.) “We did. You couldn’t hear us because they were louder. I even called you ‘Bee’ but it probably sounded too much like ‘D’.”

“I heard the woman say she was going to talk to the judge when I got the point.”

I sighed. “I’m going to tell you something, and I want you to remember it. There are parents who care a little too much about their kids’ games. It becomes their life. They forget that there’s another kid out there whose feelings are being hurt if they lose. You have to learn to tune them out. You want to win or lose based on who you’re up against. Not the audience.”

After a few minutes, she smiled and said, “My strategies for sparring in the first round didn’t work on her. Next time, I’ll have to use different strategies.”

Just like that, she was over it.

She wants to spar in another tournament.

What did I expect from a girl who can kick clear through an adult board?

Since then, she hasn’t mentioned the match, and she’s back to her sunshine self. I’ve thought about it. A LOT. It’s hard to let our children go out in the world and get hurt. We can’t coddle them each time something is hard. And the older she gets, the less I’ll be able to shelter her from life’s kicks.

Good thing she’s got inner-fierceness.


  1. Congrats to your daughter on her newer, more confident self!! Really, believing in ourselves is one of the hardest things to do. Looks like she has an awesome mother to try to teach her that lesson.

    And BOO to the other parents. It's such a shame that they care more for the match than their own daughter or another competitor. I hate to see that.

  2. Oh, Theresa, this post really left me teary-eyed. I felt for you, I felt for Bee. As parents, we always want to be there for them to protect them. I so wanted to smack those women for being so insensitive of other children's feelings. I admire Bee for being such a happy child...you have a good-hearted daughter, Theresa. When I think about it, I have learned a thing or two from Bee today. Hugs!

  3. Theresa, in my comment above, I meant: I admire Bee for being so kind and forgiving...she is such a happy child, you have a good-hearted daughter. :)

  4. Hi Theresa. Nice to "meet" you. I am a fellow Crusader, just joining a little late :) What a great story, and an innerly-fierce little girl. I have kids, too, and I can't tell you how many times we've been through similar situations! Looking forward to exploring your blog further! Susanna

  5. There are many kinds of fighters, and whilst agressive fighters often have the (mercurial) advantage of moving decisively, there are other ways.

    Hesitation, self doubt, and half commitment to action are the killers.

    One way of overcoming that is complete self-confidence, and that can be achieved through hard training, study, and careful reflection.
    Winning is important, but that hinges on the questions of what and when.
    Your daughter seems well on her way!
    BTW, if she keeps sparring she'll learn to focus out the BG static. : j

  6. May your daughter's inner fierceness continue to burn bright and blind those who dare try and snuff it out!! Yay for your lovely girl!!!

    I cannot bear to think of these parents who instill such negative energy in their children!! These poor children!!!! Bad, bad parents!! :-(

    GOOD LUCK to your daughter with her sparring!!! If she can break boards in two she can blaze through the ranks and be chief taekwando supreme artist! Yay for her!

    Take care

  7. Awww, your daughter sounds like such a sweet pea.
    I want to give her a hug!
    I hate when parents take things a little too seriously and don't take other kids' feelings into account. They are KIDS!
    I'm so glad she still wants to do it again. You, Go Bee!

  8. This so reminds me of a flute competition that I lost once, and my parents thought it was unfair. I think these things are good for us because the world can sometimes be unfair, and we have to learn that as well.

    You're a great mom!

  9. Congratulations to Bee! She proved a true champ. I despair of the parents you describe. I was horrified when I first attended American games with my children at the adult carry-on! It is disgraceful. Both you and your daughter learned a powerful lesson and with such grace. Congratulations to you, for not throttling said out of order mothers!

  10. Oh, the mommy me was upset just reading about this. You and your daughter BOTH handled it well. :-)

  11. Congrats to your daughter for coming to terms on her own!

    And thanks for the insightful post.

  12. Your daughter sounds like a really great kid; it looks like you've raised her well. Those mothers who kept yelling throughout the game should be ashamed of themselves. Not only does it negatively affect their own children as well as the other kids around them, those mothers also seem to forget that activities like this are supposed to be about having fun.

  13. What a great post. It reminds of the kind of people we should be and the kind we should not.

  14. That's great that she decided to spar. My kids are in Tae Kwon Do as well, but we haven't competed. I'm a proud mother of a little black belt that doesn't like to loose. I already know, it's going to be ugly!


  15. It makes one wonder about some sporting events where parents are thrown into the mix. It's disturbing and should be curtailed. Your daughter shows a lot of poise and maturity.

  16. I'd be so heartbroken watching that unfold. You and your daughter are both graced with wisdom to learn from such an event!

  17. Your daughter sounds just as fabulous as you Theresa. Those women can be so evil. I used to hate it as a kid when I played softball and the other kids were getting yelled at for all good/bad things. I would occassionally look in the stands and my mom and dad would wave.

    What's sad is when we all got together for dinner (the girls and I) they all talked about how they hated their parents being so crazy about the game.

    Some parents need to realize what it actually does to their children.

  18. Good for her and kudos to you. My brother played little league and some of those parents are INSANE. Ugh!

    I'm glad she's having another go at it. And I love your advice to her.

  19. Oh my... my heart went out to your daughter...I'm so glad she was able to bounce back so quickly.. you handled it very well! Like mother, like daughter :)

    I hate it when people become so caught up and take these small things so seriously... especially without realizing who they may hurt along the way.

  20. I cannot STAND people like that!

    It was so brave of your daughter to spar in the first place, and I'm so happy that she's finding her fierceness, and has parents like you to support her.

  21. What a fantastic story. Your daughter is stronger and better for this experience. I wish I had taken up an aggressive sport at that age. I'm sure it would have helped me in the long run.

    I keep reading about these nutso parents at sporting events. Some events are cracking down on them and barring them. You'd think they were watching the Superbowl or two prized fighters. They're children!

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  23. Aw, very sweet story and well written.

  24. @ Katie, thanks. I thought the whole scene would make her crumble, so I was glad she rebounded.

    @ Len, thank you for your sweet words. I was prouder of her for keeping her spirit and sweetness in the midst of the hostility. That meant more to me than winning or losing a match.

    @ Susanna, thanks for visiting. I'm glad I wrote this post because now I know I'm not alone experiencing hostile parents.

    @ Alesa, thank you. I'll let my daughter know that practice will help her tune out the static.

    @ Old Kitty, thanks for you kind comment. My daughter is so small for her age, it made parents gasp when she cracked the board.

  25. @ Kelly, when parents are like that they hurt their own kids as well as the ones their kids are up against. Thanks!

    @ Aubrie, you're right. She has to learn that people won't always be fair.

    @ Nas, thank you!

    @ Neurotic Workaholic, I wish they were ashamed. Often, these schools compete at the same events. I have this sinking feeling my Bee will be up against their D in the not-so-distant future.

    @ Elana, I wish the would nots would. Just have to deal with the would nots.

  26. @ Ann, that's interesting that Ireland has milder parents for kids games. I know they don't for adult ones!

    @ Liz, thank you!

    @ Raisingmarshamallows, my son is going to compete in the next match. I hope both kids being out there will help them feel supported. First matches are probably always tough. Good luck when it's your turn.

    @ Paul C, I wish someone had said something. They were the only ones like that. Everyone just clapped and said their child's name a few times.

    @ Lydia, thank you. I'm glad she's not afraid to return.

  27. @ Jen, how interesting to hear from adults who experienced overzealous behavior from their parents as children. I always wondered.

    On my soccer team, one parent would yell at coaches and refs until he was red in the face. A particular call once enraged him so much he lay facedown on the floor, pounding his hands and feet. I kid you not.

    @ The Words Crafter, thank you. When my kids played soccer and my son played baseball, all the parents were extremely cool. This is the first time we've faced this kind of behavior.

    @ WritingNut, thanks. There are other instances when I've taken small things too seriously, and have had to step back. I wish those women would too.

    @ Kelly, I've been encouraging my kids to spar, but I can see why they wouldn't want to. It's intense!

    @ Medeia, when my daughter took soccer there were specific rules for parents. I wish there were here too.

  28. @ Elembee, thanks!

    @ Anonymous, thank you.

    @ LR, thanks. I appreciate it.

  29. I don't have kids, but I think that one of the hardest parts of parenting would be to see your child hurting and not coddle them. Your daughter sounds like she has a beautiful, strong heart (and a great mom) and will be just fine.

  30. I hate those obnoxious parents who flip out over every little thing. I've seen young kids screamed at over sports...right in front of everyone. It just makes me want to scream at the parents.

  31. What a good mommy you are. This post made me tear up a bit b/c I have a gently soul living with me too !!! ((hugs))

  32. I'm so sorry those women were so rude! And that your daughter heard it is the worst. Boo on them!

    My daugher is goalie for her soccer team, and two weeks ago she got stepped on by a girl from the opposing team when she went down to stop the ball. She was hurt, and all the girls took a knee while the coach came out to check on her. But then, when she and the coach left the field, a mom from the opposing team yelled, "Way to go, red!" Was she really cheering for the other team because they hurt my daughter enough that she had to leave the game? I really hope that couldn't possibly be the case, but it sure sounded like it. Indeed, sometimes parents can get so caught they forget that there are other kids out there as well.

    It sounds like your daughter is strong enough to try, try again - a wonderful trait!

  33. Oh my gosh, Theresa, this post put tears in my eyes!!! My heart completely broke for your daughter.
    I am a coddler so other people's children affect me too. :)

    But I am SO glad she is willing to try again in another tournament. It goes to show children are more resilient than we give them credit. :)

  34. Great opening quote, very true!

    That photo of your daughter really got to me, shame on those parents, these are children for gods sake...I was so glad to hear her reaction in the end, good for her, there's real wisdom in that young heart!

  35. Oh my goodness, my mommy heart broke when I read this. I'm so glad she's moved on. It's amazing how much we can learn from a child. Your daughter sounds amazing.

  36. @ Missed Periods, than you. She cries easily but is resilient. It's amazing.

    @ Stephanie, I've seen that too. It's awful. At least these moms were supportive... in their special way.

    @ Christina, what a sweet way to refer to your child.

    @ Susan, that is a terrible story. I bet the mom did get caught up and actually cheer because her daughter did something "good". Sadly, I've seen that happen.

    @ Jennifer, I hope my daughter's next time is more positive. I want her to let it roll off her, but at the same time I want her to stay sweet.

    @ Niamh, thank you very much. Sometimes it's amazing how much depth can live in a little one.

    @ Julie, thank you. I'm proud of her for the type of person she is most of all.

  37. @ Pranavam, I don't post my kids clearly on purpose so they have privacy. Thanks for the comment!

  38. Bless her little heart. I think she is a wonderfully brave girl and I think you have instilled some fantastic strength within her. Wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.

  39. Oh man this story hits the emotion button!

    Especially since last night my mom and aunt (both of whom I rarely see because they live in Asia) were talking about me and my now-deceased cousin's babyhood. I'm reluctant to have children, but the women in my family have been showing me the tender sides.

  40. @ Regina, thank you. My daughter impresses me with her resilience.

    @ Sophia, having children is an awesome responsibility, but I don't have any regrets about it.

    Good luck figuring out what's best for you.

  41. This almost made me cry. Your poor baby! I cannot stand when parents freak out about their kids' like this. I can't imagine ever putting that much pressure on my kid about a contest which is supposed to be fun. And, you're right, they don't consider how it can hurt the other children who are playing. That's much too young to be yelling and screaming and demanding point reviews.

    I'm considering doing dance for my 3-year-old, but I wonder if she would like something like Karate or Taekwondo better. What do you think?

  42. @ Lisa, I had my daughter in dance at age 4, but she didn't get much out of it. Probably anything that gets them moving is good. I like the Taekwondo philosophy that they do in the younger classes. I don't know what age they can start though (maybe not before 4 or 5). They learn about respecting parents and classmates, how to stay safe, and so on.

  43. I would have decked that other mother. Honestly, parents who can't behave should be barred from attending their children's sports events. What impresses me is that your daughter talks about strategy. Now there's something to be proud of. Can that other mother's kid do that?

  44. Hi Theresa .. thanks for posting .. good for us know and remember these things - we are so self-centred and it's time we remembered others and 'shared in the game' ..

    Your attitude is brilliant - but your daughter's even more so .. amazing child ..

    Enjoy the weekend .. cheers Hilary

  45. @ Judy, I was the proudest that she got over it and kept her spirit.

    As for strategy, that mother may ONLY care about strategy. I don't know.

    @ Hilary, thank you so much for the compliment. I'm very proud of my daughter.

  46. Your daughter sounds like an amazing little girl. That photo? Of the hug? I want to hug her, too. I also would love to give those "aggressive" moms a piece of my mind, though they'd probably drop-kick me-- and then I'd cry. Sigh. At least you're a good mom with a good head on your shoulders. Your daughter is lucky!

    1. Samantha, thank you. This year was so much better. The girl with the same name wasn't there, so neither was the mom. The entire atmosphere was more positive. No tears this time!