“Mom,” my eight-year-old began last week, “could you please call my coach and let him know I can’t play tonight, because I cracked my leg.”
Seeing he was walking fine, I smiled inside (remembering my own “broken leg” claims of childhood) and asked how it happened. He explained he had been playing soccer with his brother. Five years his elder, that particular brother can be a little over-competitive with his already-powerful kick.
“Did he miss the ball and kick you? Or did you fall? What happened?” I prodded, guessing there might be a little tattling involved.
“He kicked the ball ‘as hard as he could’ [a phrase that always makes me smile inside] and I tried to stop it.”
“Oh my! That’s the kind of shot I stopped one time, and I couldn’t use my shoulder for a year!” I said. “Well did you at least stop him from getting the goal?” I jested to make light of the situation.
“No.” He sulked, and I stopped suspecting his purpose of getting his brother in trouble.
“No? You tried to stop it and it hit you so hard you hurt your leg, but it still went in?”
“No,” he complained, “I tried to kick it really hard, but I missed the ball completely.”
“You missed the ball? Then how did you hurt your leg; did you kick the ground?” I dragged the story out of him.
“No. I didn’t hit anything. But I kicked so hard, I cracked my leg, because I heard it crack,” he surmised.
I relished in the joy of motherhood.
“Well, bud, I don’t think you broke it, so you are probably ok for practice tonight. Besides, you are scrimmaging the girls. Your team needs you!”
“No, Mom,” the concern in his voice was obvious. “There is no way I can play in my scrimmage tonight.”
Uh oh…I smelled a teachable moment. What can I say to encourage him away from the wimpy attitude that tries to stop us all when the “going gets tough”?
“Bradys play hurt!“? -no…he’s heard that one already.
Story! I need a story!
My kids (like us adults) always learn the best through a relevant story. For me, when it is told through a third-party’s eyes, it takes the offense away and allows learning without feeling attacked. Certainly I could think of someone overcoming hardship that would relate to this eight-year-old’s heart and mind. Then I remembered an oldie but goodie from his very own oldest brother (whom I knew this younger son would never see as “wimpy”). I started my “once upon a time…” voice with the following true story – but in eight-year-old terms, like, “You know what happened next?” to keep his attention:
When your big brother was eleven…
When Casey was about eleven, I remember that sometimes even he, like many eleven-year-old boys would cry, or fight wimpiness. I prayed that God would help to make him strong and tough.
The very next day, Casey got poison ivy! It was just a little patch, but Casey thought he would have to skip his soccer game. I told him I thought he needed to “play hurt,” because it really wasn’t that big of a deal.
That night, the rash got worse. A lot worse! It was on his face, his belly, his legs and his feet! He itched SO BAD, I prayed that God would take the poison ivy away! fast!
But the next day, Casey got out of bed and you know what he did? He put on his soccer uniform to go play the game!
I couldn’t believe it! Then I realized what a champion he became when he overcame the poison ivy! I thought back to my prayer just days prior and realized that maybe the poison ivy WAS the answer to my first prayer: that God would make Casey tough, because when I saw him play even though he had poison ivy, I realized my prayer was answered.
I wonder if God ever laughs at me?! One moment, I prayed that Casey would become a warrior, and then when God allowed the exact thing that would make him tough (poison ivy), I immediately prayed it would be taken away. Lucky for me, God continued with His plan, and didn’t just listen to my request for the “easy way out.”
Not only did Casey play for his team that day, but he scored a goal!
“Maybe sometimes God allows the struggles so that we can gain the strength we need to persevere,” I told my young son (telling him about Romans 5:3-5) as I finished the story of his brother, hoping it would make an impact on his own toughness factor for the night.
He sat pensively silent. I gloated at my mothering ability to teach through a third-party story. I hoped he got the parallels to his own soccer-scrimmage dilemma. I got a little choked up, thinking about my now sixteen-year-old who has become such a man.
Then the eight-year-old broke into my prideful thoughts, “Well, that is a good story with poison ivy, Mom, but MY cracked leg is a much bigger problem!”
Ha! Don’t we always believe “our mule carries the bigger load”?
I told him he could let the coach know that he “popped” his knee, and that he might need to take it lightly that night.
I would say that the lesson wasn’t learned, but alas, he DID play in his scrimmage that night… “broken leg” and all. His team was down 2-0 at half-time, but came back in the second half to win the game against the girls. (He wanted me to be sure and tell you that part.)