Monday, December 21, 2015

Lies, Damn Lies, No 4

Well Carla has done it again.  I read her post this morning on how she endeavors to instill confidence in her daughter and she asked for comments, saying "what do you believe is one thing adults can do to help preserve girls’ self-esteem?"

I've been meaning to write a blog post.  My last post isn't what I really want on my home page.  This new post was going to be about some small changes I've implemented in my routine recently.  I've also been noodling on a post about 2016 goals (what with the new year looming, who isn't?)

So clearly it was time for a new post.  My attempt at a short comment in response to Carla's question, turned into THIS:

I once tried out for little league baseball.  My brothers were both super athletic and loved it, and one summer I thought maybe I'd give it a shot.  At tryouts (I didn't know then but I do now... there's no being "cut" from the team, you just get put in different leagues or on different teams based on your ability.)(As an adult, I have the language for this - it wasn't "tryouts"; it was a "skills assessment".)

But anyway, at tryouts, the first exercise was fielding the ball.  Kids lined up and one at a time, you went onto the field and some adult (a "coach"? was this The Coach?) hit 10 balls in your general direction for you to catch.  I was terrified of being hit in the face and didn't catch anything that came at me in the air.  Not the pop-ups, sure as hell not the line drive.  I think I actually just squeezed my eyes shut and held out my glove.  Balls 10; CPAGrrrl zero.

Next, he hit 10 ground balls in my general direction.  This I thought I had a chance at.
But I missed all of them.
Every.  Single.  One.
All.  TEN.
  • They went around me, 
  • They came at me faster than I expected, 
  • They went straight between my legs while I flailed with that glove in one hand and reached with my other, bare, hand in desperation.  

I failed.  
Like, really, REALLY failed.  
And in front of our entire neighborhood.
In front of my father and both my brothers. 

The whole process probably took less than 5 minutes but it seemed to go on for hours.  I don't think I'd ever been THAT bad at ANYthing before. I was beyond embarrassed.  More than that - I had a great vocabulary - I could list TEN different words for how I felt.

I was mortified.
I was crushed.
I was humiliated.
I was ashamed.

I tried to hold my head up as I got back in line for the next round, our turn to hit.  The kid in front of me - I can't recall his name but I knew him from the neighborhood (and we were not friends) - he said something, berating me for not even being able to pick up a ground ball.

That was it.  I burst into tears as my father walked up.  I imagine he was saying something cheerful and encouraging.  I also imagine he had no idea what to do with a crying potential-ballplayer.  I imagine how confounded he must have felt.  (Basing this primarily on my own utter confusion any time someone begins crying in a situation where it's the last thing I'd expect.)  I don't know if he asked me if I wanted to leave, or if I said I wanted to or what.  But that's what happened next; I went home.  Baseball tryouts:  OVER.

I've learned to enjoy watching baseball.  But I've never been part of a team sport.  I was on a youth football cheer squad.  But my mom was the coach.  I'm not sure I ever really gave myself credit for that.  (Perhaps I should have.  Perhaps I should still. Perhaps I should.)  In high school, I started tryouts for the volleyball team, but quit before the first cut.  I have never joined in a company softball game.  The physical activities I participate in now are all individual - running, walking, biking, swimming.  I rarely even join a class at my gym.  This stuff isn't "my dad's fault."  Hell, I wouldn't say any of this stuff is even a negative outcome.  But I believe this stuff was influenced by the outcome of that day.  I wish my future choices had been influenced by a moment where I stayed in that line, even though I didn't want to.  I might have found out I was better at hitting the ball.

CPAGrrrl Cheerleader
Maybe I wouldn't have learned to be better at going after a literal ground ball.  Maybe I am simply Not Good At That.  But maybe I would have learned sooner how to go after a metaphorical one.  My father accidentally taught me that day, that it was OK to quit when something was a physical challenge.  And I believe NOW, that was a lesson I would have been better off without.  

I learned at an early age that my brain was a powerful tool muscle, that there are very few academic challenges I can't overcome with some effort.  And those lessons have stuck with me and gotten me through countless struggles.

I learned early to value what my MIND was capable of.
  • Sometimes you need more time, 
  • Sometimes you need to ask the right person for help, 
  • but sooner or later, 
  • ALL problems have an appropriate solution.  (correct? maybe, sometimes there are more than one of those) (and sometimes there are none.)

This GRRRL ENJOYED using her brain for fun and learning.

At the same time, I have walked away from countless physical challenges, saying:

  • "I'd never be able to do that." (says fucking who?) 
  • "I have no upper-body strength." (True, but why was that viewed as a permanent condition?) 
  • "I am not very coordinated." (I imagine that can be remedied or at least improved upon with some practice.) 
  • "I fall down a lot." (OK frankly that's just truth.  I fell down LAST Friday and was limping for 2 days.)

This GRRRL knew the value of long hours practicing, working to learn a new skill.
I think the concept I'm after here is "GRIT."[Thank you, Wikipedia.]  GRIT [thank you, amazing Ted Talk.] can be taught, and I eventually found it in my own way.  I just didn't have it yet, not when it came to "sports-y" things.  I believe GRIT to be the most important thing I can teach my child, the most important thing I learned from my parents, from my upbringing.

It took GRIT to keep going back to school after every obstacle that interrupted forward progress.  I was never ashamed that it took 12 years to finish that degree.  I worked my ass off EVERY MINUTE of those 12 years.
There are moments as a parent when you blow it.  Sometimes you KNOW you blew it - that time you snapped at your son for something small but really it was because your boss made you feel like shit at work that day and you hadn't had a chance to decompress before picking up the kids from school - you know you blew it that minute.  You do what you do - maybe apologize, maybe not, maybe you try to make up for it some way, definitely you try not to DO that again... (Parental GRIT in action.)

But sometimes - and as a parent these are the things that scare the crap out of me - sometimes you don't know you blew it.  My father blew it that day.  I'm sure he didn't realize it.  Certainly at the time, I had no idea anyone besides me was blowing it.  And it's not that he did anything wrong.  But looking back with the clarity of a 40-year-old woman who wishes she'd had more appreciation for what her BODY was capable of, as well as her MIND, I sure wish he'd found a way to make sure I stayed to the end of tryouts.

(and proof they're not real)
No. 4

"I CAN'T DO [this thing]"


Here's the truth:

I don't know how to do [that thing]. 


  1. Such an unbelievably powerful post and I'm honored if I played any small part in sparking it. This parenthood gig is such a tough thing. I'm pretty certain I will look back at some point and see so many times or forks in the road when I wish I might have nudged my little to "stay" or pick a different path.

  2. Sometimes it's those who are holding you back and saying the wrong things who are actually the ones spurring you on…PROVE to people (the naysayers) you can do things they never expected you could. The best revenge is living well and proving people WRONG!


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- CPAGrrrl