When ambivalence strikes as a parent.

It was pretty late at night when I began writing this, and I am certain at one point, I am going to somewhat regret my current Jerry Maguire Moment (as I have come to think of these late night ‘I must write this’ posts).  Regardless, I just had to let my fingers grace the keyboard and write this – To quote Jerry, ‘A night like this doesn’t come around very often, I seized it.


Yesterday, I had just returned home from a basketball tournament in Ohio with my sixth grader.  Yes, you did hear me correctly, I took my middle schooler to Ohio for the weekend from Pennsylvania, invested in a hotel room, gas for the car, meals out-of-town, and gave up spending the weekend as a foursome to spend some QT with my oldest son at an away-tournament.  Some of you may be nodding your head thinking you do the same for your own kids whether they dance, play soccer, or swim.  Others are probably thinking I lost my mind.


I have to say this:  I am undecided.  My very own jury is out.  I have no f@#$ing clue if it was the right thing to do.  I simply know that I carried a hefty amount of ambivalence as to when it came to taking my son to an insanely competitively charged weekend as a 6th grader (and I am a competitive person).


I never played basketball growing up nor do I play now.  I grew up watching family and friends play….that’s my experience with the actual game.  So, what makes me hold any authority in writing a piece on whether this was an incredibly smart or stupid parenting decision on my part?


I figured since I do hold both undergrad and post-graduate degrees in child and adolescent development and spent a number of years working with children and teens all along the developmental continuum that gave me some cred as a professional.  Practically, I am a mom and pretty savvy listener and people-reader due to both my nature and my training.  Combining the professional and the personal with my continuing love for learning about the world we live in, I just needed to make an assessment of the what the hell was I thinking in going to this tournament?  I questioned this stuff before, so it was nothing new –


I will say right off the bat that our team did just OK – not stellar, not terrible.  We did not move on to the last day of games, and I feel the need to mention this as I am not being a sore loser in writing this.  Rather, I wanted to take a delve into the culture of the entire travel sports phenomenon.  My son was not the youngest age group nor the oldest, he wasn’t the ‘whitest,’ and he was not the only one there with only part of his family in attendance.   There was diversity, whole families turning the event into a vacation weekend, and an ungodly amount of pressure and excitement in the air.












Here is what plagued my thoughts, along with others as they mentioned it too, over the weekend:


I left behind my other kid(s) to be here.


I gave up having a much needed date night with my husband [wife], partner to be here.


I am so tired and have to arrive back home late on Sunday to not be prepared at all for the work week ahead.


I know that this is a huge cut into the budget for a number of people here.


These are just middle school kids.


Boy, this hotel and its surrounding neighborhood must be thrilled about the boom in business in its community this weekend.


Didn’t Charles Barkley say that AAU basketball ruined basketball back in 2010?


Yeh, I know I should just get over myself, but I can’t because I am a mom.  Although I tagged along for the weekend, I stuck my kid basically in the ‘arms’ of a few coaches and  tournament leaders and refs for 2 days in a pageantry of middle school basketball.  I cannot help to feel there is something not 100% right with this.


As if that is not enough to contemplate, I went on my own with my son to mainly absolve my son of having a middle-aged dad screaming sitting on the bleachers.  There was some amazing camaraderie formed with other moms, however, the testosterone was pungent everywhere I went.


Whether you think he will be successful or not doesn’t really matter when you think about Steven Adams, D1 player who was plucked out of a farm in New Zealand, sent to play at The University of Pittsburgh, and is entering the draft after one year playing collegiate ball.  He never played travel middle school basketball with a dad on the bench and look at what happened to him.  He is doing what many dream of doing (aside from whether we think he will make it or not).


I was on a mission throughout the weekend, getting to know attitudes and myths about the adventure.  I ran into moms I knew from back home.  Some were annoyed with their husbands signed on for this event, others were as ambivalent as me, and there were a few ecstatic ones.  Some were doing laundry,  I was not doing that.


The only thing for sure I know from the weekend is I like the aspect of meeting and getting to know all different types of kids with various backgrounds, families, and skin color.  This was the good part.


I also liked a bit of the competition.  I think working towards a goal, a team medal, becoming better players and teammates are all great learning experiences.


Do we have to have to travel for these experiences on the middle school level?  Again, the jury is out.  I just think back to Jerry and his original manifesto in which he theatrically decides that fewer clients = better experiences.  Perhaps, less travel, minimalist carrying on, not as many activities, and slightly less pressure = better experiences.


Believe me, I fall prey to the notion that as parents, we must drop it all and be there, and shlep the kids, and enroll in everything possible to be competitive today.  Maybe not?


I don’t know.  I watched my son meet new people and have fun.  I missed my other son.

I made new friends.  I missed my Sunday yoga class.

I ate at Bob Evans with a party of eight.  I missed having a cocktail with my husband on Saturday night.

I watched my son win and lose.  I missed my bed.  I had meaningful conversation and time on the car ride with my oldest son.


I guess I have to go back next year to know for sure.




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