I never really thought of myself as a person who would see being a mom through the lens of a sports analogy. But here I am, seeing my three very different stages of parenting like I’m in a stadium watching each of my children’s lives play out.
When they were little, I taught them everything about the game.
I was the coach on the field putting them in their places right in the middle of the action. I had no idea how easy the whole “mom” thing was when they were little. They went where I took them. They ate what I fed them. They played with who I put around them. They took naps and went to bed early.
It’s true what they say about the days being long but the years being short.
While it feels like yesterday with all three of them, I am no longer the coach on the field. I know I am not supposed to be, but each time I change my location, I have a different view, and that is hard to wrap my head around.
With our youngest, I am not in the middle of the field anymore, carefully placing her where she needs to be. But I am still on the field—just closer to the sidelines.
She still very much needs her coach with her and I love it. She is in that crazy place where she is not a little kid. Neither is she a teenager. She is my baby girl, who is well on her way to becoming a young lady.
We spend a lot of time together, and she depends on me for so many things. Since I am still right there on the field, I can quickly get to her when she needs me. We do this game-of-life thing together. If she falls, I will be close by, but I will not be standing so close that I can catch her every time.
This Mama Bear is up for the big battles, but my daughter is finding her own roar.
I am comfortable with this mom view because I am still very much a part of the action. I like the control that comes with this particular field position. I am comfortable here. I have been here for a long time, and this is a stage of “mom” that makes sense to me.
Honestly, I think this is the season where I do the best because it gives me the opportunity to watch and participate all at the same time—the best of both worlds to me.
With our middle child, who is in high school, I am no longer on the actual playing field. I am definitely on the sidelines.
I have a fantastic view of the game. I am right there for him, and he is easily able to get to me. He used to come to the sidelines between every play. But, more and more, he knows exactly who he is and what he is doing. With guidance, he is calling the plays. Usually, he has a good idea of what needs to happen, and I am the sounding board or confirmation that he is moving in the right direction.
There have been times that my husband and I have had to call an official time-out, and our son has been pulled from the game and sent straight to the locker room for some direct instruction and focused practice. These are the learning experiences that ideally impact the way he reenters the game.
This view is less comfortable, but I have been here before and have learned a lot from my first sideline parenting experience with our oldest. I am working my way farther and farther toward the stands. I can feel myself drifting backward. I don’t like it, but I am allowing it to happen because it is supposed to happen this way.
It is not fair to him for me to stay too close for too long—no matter how badly I would like to stay there. No one benefits from the “coach” being out of position. At this age, he has to know that we trust him to do what he knows is right and to surround himself with the best team for him.
With our oldest, who is in college, I am not on the field. I am not on the sidelines either. I just have a ticket to the game and have to find a seat.
He calls the plays and picks his uniform. He sets the schedule and chooses the locations. And many of his teammates and opponents are people I have never met.
If he wants to, he can give me a special sideline pass, but I do not have a place on the field anymore. I have to depend on him to use all the skills I taught him when I was on the field with him. I have to trust him to remember what he learned when I was coaching on the sideline.
Now, I am just a spectator. And it happened just like that.
There have been moments that I am front row at centerfield with no one in front of me. At other moments, I feel like I am on the very top row, trying to catch a glimpse of him on the big screen because the field is so far away and I forgot my glasses!
To be completely honest, I am still trying to adjust to this view.
I’ve tried to jump the fence and storm the field once or twice. It did not end well because it sends the message that I don’t trust him to play his game. I’m learning to stay in my seat. My husband helps me stay where I am supposed to be because we are very much a team. I don’t know how to “just watch.”
What I do know is how to cheer. Our son needs to know that no matter where I am in the stadium, I am his greatest fan—even when he makes a really dumb play.
He also needs to know that the same God who has played beside him every second of every game is still the ultimate Coach and Teammate.
As I cheer, I pray. I pray that when the enemy tries to draw him out of position, Jesus quickly opens his eyes and gets him back in the game. I pray that he does not try to take on all of the responsibility and planning himself. I pray he uses Scripture as his guide. I pray that his new teammates sharpen him like iron sharpens iron. I also pray that he has grace with me as I learn how to be a spectator.
I have to pray that God will give me the same grace with our son as he figures it all out—many times not the way I would have done it. Most days, I feel like I am still wandering around trying to find my seat. I know I will get there eventually because I trust the One who allowed me to be part of these games in the first place.
I’ve had one constant in all three locations—my Coach.
I have cried to him. I have wrestled with him. I have questioned him. I have petitioned him. And, I have listened for him.
Sometimes he has answered me quickly. Other times he has made me wait on him longer than I would prefer. Most of all, I have been held by him.
He has been true to his word to “sing over me and quiet me with his love” (Zephaniah 3:17). He has been faithful to stay up with me through the night and to carry me through the day. He has seen my tears and shared my joy.
To say I trust Jesus with my kids is easy. To actually do it is not easy at all.
But he knows that I have a hard time releasing my children to him, and he meets me where I am. He also equips me with what I need in order to be the mom each of my kids need at every stage of their lives.
So, on the field, on the sidelines, in the best seat in the house, or from outside the stadium, I will wear my “mom” shirt.
I would not want to wear anything else.
8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
9 They are a garland to grace your head
and a chain to adorn your neck.
Proverbs 1:8–9 (NIV)