August 1, 2012

Being A Spectator

They watch the event with clenched fists. Their anxious faces are often hidden under replicas of the flag, or behind their arms. Their mouths only open to shout words of encouragement or to cheer at the end. It's the parents I'm watching during the Olympics XXX, perhaps even more than their children who are competing.

It's funny that this role reversal has taken place. I used to watch Nadia Comăneci, when I was younger, and wonder how it would be to perform like her. Now I watch the parents, and know that I'm almost exactly like them.

We take our children so very seriously. Their dreams become our dreams, their disappointments are felt as acutely in our own hearts as in theirs. The parent watches, powerless, to see what will result from years of effort. Because when their children are running down the track, or swimming across the pool, or flying over the uneven bars, it's all up to them. The training has already taken place; now it's time for the child to do his best.

My son isn't an athlete. He isn't close to being an Olympian. But he's had trials every bit as rigorous as their training. We've suffered disappointments. We've endured some retraining. Now at 21, when he tells me for the 800th time in his life that he wants to join the Marines, I have to let him go. I want to hide behind my hands, but I will lift them up to trust in God. To see what my son will achieve in his life. (Proverbs 22:6)

I never thought I'd resemble an Olympian's parent. But, in many ways parents are all alike. We've trained our children, and now we have to sit back to see them accomplish all that they can. Sometimes, it's harder to be the spectator than it is to be the athlete.


  1. Oh, I think that in the lives of our children it is much harder being the spectator!! Our boys are the same age and mine has learned some HARD lessons this summer, but as the parent, I have to just stand by and watch, pray and hope they will ask for help BEFORE they need it...and when they don't I still stand by for when they need a hug and an "I'll love you forever, no matter what" and help them pick up the pieces. I crazily used to think that parenting stopped or at least got easier when they became adults.....Praying for you, friend, as you let go and let God!!

  2. Nadia Comaneci? That means we wanted the same thing, at some point, besides becoming teachers and wanting to read only good books :) Also, I think being a parent is the absolute most amazing (...) and you fill the dots thing in the world, so I can just imagine your struggle... but we have to believe everything will be just fine :)

  3. Good luck to your son. I'm sure things will go just fine :)

  4. I can relate as well. I've always said I'm glad our son's not a pitcher, kicker, or quarterback. It's hard to let go, but you just have to. Good luck to your son.

  5. As a mother, I know how nerve-racking sporting events and recitals can be. Multiply that by a very large number for parents of young Olympians! We want the best for our children, and we let it show on our faces. :)

  6. All the best to junior.
    I have two boys of my own. 7 and 5. There will come a time when I too, have to learn how to let go.

  7. How right you are. My son has just graduated from high school and I am learning that I have done my job and now it is time for him to take what he has learned, with my loving arms to support him, and find his way.

  8. I know how you feel. My son joined the Army when he was 18 against our wishes. We made him get out, because we felt that he had been pressured and had made a rash decision. He was in ROTC Officer Training all through college, so when he joined again after graduation, we were okay with it. By that time he had been training for several years and could go into the service as an officer. He's a Captain today and doing very well. It took several years to fully let go and be at peace with his decision. We even made it through a tour in Iraq! It's probably not the career I would have picked for him, but if he's happy then I'm okay with it.

  9. We take our children so very seriously. Their dreams become our dreams, their disappointments are felt as acutely in our own hearts as in theirs. The parent watches, powerless, to see what will result from years of effort.

    Even with a soon-to-be-29-year-old, I still worry. And I probably will until the day I die.

  10. But the parents' task is to nurture independence, not dependence. That means freedom - not freedom for you never to worry, but freedom for your son to set his own course.

    That's why the early years are so important. Even when kids make mistakes - even veering off the very course they've set! - that internal compass will bring them back.

    Holding on too hard can bring its own unhappy consequences, particuarly since a determined child can find some extraordinarily creative ways to have his or her own way. ;)

    1. Linda, this is what I'm learning on the journey with my son: achieving his independence is the critical thing, which most certainly means I have to let go.

      I suck at letting go.

      Ever since his father died, I've held far too tightly, and I don't want to say in so many words, "You should live here until you're 45 just like Norman Bates."

      We can smile at that analogy until we realize that I would be doing him a huge dis-service. The mark of good parenting is an independent child. That is my goal.

      Plus, at church today we had a great lesson on idols. They don't necessarily need to be made of wood and stone; they can appear in the form of financial security, cars, homes and children. I must not put my son before "my" God.