Saoirse and her team finished up their novice basketball season this weekend. These girls exceeded all of our expectations (Saoirse: “I didn’t think we were going to win one game!” Her dad–her head coach–sheepishly agreed): they were undefeated this season save one loss, and I never thought a group of 3rd and 4th graders could grow so well together. It was amazing to watch–and reaffirming, quite honestly, to witness firsthand how steady hard work can make even the biggest doubters say, “Oh, okay. I wasn’t expecting that.”
As I said good night to my oldest girl after the last game of her tournament, I told her how proud I was of her. She asked why–what was I most proud of?–and I had to sort through the reasons to get to my answer. (I’m a mom, you know. Ask me how I’m proud of one of my kids and I turn into a mushy pile of Elizabeth Barrett Browning poems.)
Saoirse’s gotten faster this season. She’s more confident, more sure of herself, more in control. The nervous ponytail-fixing days of yore are gone. She’s a better ball-handler, switching from left to right like she figures that if God gave her two hands, she might as well use both. I love that she was ready and willing to pass the ball, that she knew how to work as a team, that she always turned to congratulate a player after a basket. She’s a good shot. I’m proud of her because she was one of the strongest players on the team–I admit that. I can’t help it. It’s fun to see your kid shine. I thought about how she made the last, game-winning bucket of the season, with a rebound that she calmly took, stepped back, and shot from the middle of a defensive scrum. I was so proud of that. I’ve turned into that arms-up-in-the-air “Whoooo!” sort of mom–the one that makes you roll your eyes because seriously, it’s kiddie basketball?–and I’m okay with that. How can you not be proud of the moment your kid gets brave?
But here is what I told her: yes, I was proud of all of that. Yes, I was happy to see how she’d started to shine. But it was something else: it was the way, when she ran down the court, she kept an eye over her shoulder to see where the ball was going. It was how she moved around when she had the ball, aware of what was going on as she kept an eye out for open players. It was how she maneuvered, head up, guarding this person but watching another. It was how, when she did move to shoot, she’d pivot, take a millisecond to size up the distance to the basket, then launch the ball. So I told her:
“You see the big picture now. You’re not just in there, scrambling to get through the play. You’re always aware of what’s going on around you now. It’s neat to see. It shows a lot of maturity, Saoirse.”
It was SO not a 10-year-old-sized compliment, but it was the truth, and my heart swelled when I saw her actually blush, her head against her pillow, her freshly washed hair smelling of coconut shampoo, her sweet face thinking about what I’d said.
She’s 10. And this season she’s learned not to just scramble. She’s learned to look up, look around, assess, and work with the people who surround her. And she’s mastered it.
The big picture. It’s something I struggle with every day.
I have a lot to learn from my 10-year-old.
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