When I was a runt of a seven-year-old, I played in a rainy soccer game. As the raindrops shot to the ground, I ran through the muddy field. The tall blonde on the other team kept kicking the ball into the back of our net. She had already scored five goals. My coach, desperate to end the massacre, tried me at defense instead of offense. The ball kicked loose, halfway between the tall blonde and me. We ran toward that ball simultaneously until we collided. I knocked her down. I went down, too—only, I popped right back up like a jack-in-the-box, taking the ball with me.
I sprinted down the field and somehow looked up just in time to notice my dad had arrived. He had gotten out of his car, in his courtroom suit and loafers, and tramped through the mud. Pride was beaming out of him as he marched—I felt it. I took his energy—and the ball—and ran faster and faster until I got to the other team’s goalie.
I didn’t score, but my Dad was wild with pride. “Good job, Angela! Way to get in there! Keep it up!” He wouldn’t stop yelling. But I wasn’t embarrassed.
He stood there on those soggy sidelines the rest of the game in his sopping wet suit, foggy glasses, and drenched hair. I didn’t score that game—but the giant didn’t score again either.
This is the story that my dad chooses to tell people about me—like I was David and the tall blonde was Goliath. Yup, he’s the annoying guy on the airplane who won’t stop talking about his kids. He tells the checkout guy at the grocery store and the waitress at the restaurant. And at my wedding, he stood and said it into the microphone, too. Yes, despite the fact that all 350 guests had likely heard it already, he told it again. And today, now that I’m in my mid-thirties, he still recites it sometimes. But it’s the pride from my father on that rainy day that ignited my fire for soccer. He felt that I had the tenacity in my little body to be great. That’s all I needed.
As parents, we try to expose our kids into many things: sports, the arts, different activities. It’s our job, after all. We want them to find their niche so they grow a passion for something that fuels them. Yet, sometimes we forget this tiny factor in parenthood: sincere praise. We get caught up in the day-to-day events—big and small. Yes, we tell our children “good job,” and we mean it of course, but pausing to sincerely invest the time into our children’s successes sometimes goes forgotten. We mean well, but parenting is hard business. Cheering loudly for our kids will never be forgotten—at a sporting event, a classroom activity, Girl Scouts—anything.
Go ahead, brag about your kids. Who cares if the stranger standing in line at the coffee shop doesn’t want to hear it? Your child certainly does. And she’ll always remember it, too.
All we need to do is believe in our children—get out of the car on that rainy day to cheer madly. Even if we get a little wet, it will help light a passion within our children that will last forever.