This past weekend I was at the baseball field, really where else have I spent my free time these past few months, and overheard a conversation between two fathers.
One father was expressing how upset and disappointed he was in the championship team his son had played in this past summer. From what I gathered his son was not played very often and spent most of the game, every game sitting on the bench. All while other kids, notably the coach's kid, played every inning.
I felt for the father. I did. I remember a few short years ago when we were in the same position. Our son was on the All Star team but among the All Stars, well his star shone a little less bright, to put it nicely. He did his best. He went to every practice. He worked hard. I worked hard driving him all over hell's half acre for practices and games.
The final game of the season. The championship game for first place, three kids had to sit out. My son ended up being one of them. He was crushed. It was heartbreaking for my husband and I to see him so hurt. But we did the only thing we could do. We sympathized with his pain. We acknowledged that it felt unfair to him. But we never once bad mouthed his coach. At least not in front of our son, we saved our disappointment for private conversations.
We basically told him that he had two choices when something bad happens to you. You can become angry and bitter and blame everyone else. Or you can see the adversity for what it is, a chance to demonstrate the depth of your character. The choice is up to you.
I remember him crying, "Having character sucks."
And I corrected him, "No, it is the building of character that sucks. And it does suck big time."
In the end he went to the game, sat in the dugout with them, and cheered and supported his team. I could not have been prouder of him. If that was a glimpse of the kind of man he will grow into, I consider myself a success.
Back to the conversation I overheard. The father related how he became angry and confronted the coach during a game, not privately, not in the spirit of what can my son do to get more playing time, but in a demanding and belligerent manner. And when the coach would not immediately put his son into the game, the father pulled his son out of the dugout, making a scene, and brought him home.
This father had the opportunity to teach his child about character and he chose not to. Instead of taking his concerns to the coach privately or going with his son to the coach and asking what he could do to get more playing time, he was demanding and obnoxious. I cringed as he said this with a bravado that implied he still felt justified in his behavior.
I thought, 'What does that teach your child?'