Uploaded by Amanda Albert

Best Parenting Move Essay S

The best parenting
move? Butt out.
Watching her son not play
basketball taught Melissa Fay
Greene that sometimes, the
smartest thing a mom can do is
stand silently on the sidelines.
A boy. A team. A dream. A bench.
There he'd sat for four games in a row.
"Which one is yours?" asked a friendly parent in the
stands. Our family was new' to this school district.
"That one. On the bench."
Eight minutes left. Please, Coach, let him play. Let him
show what he can do, I silently begged. Despite my son's
clapping hands and cheers, I knew he was in agony. The
clock's numbers ran down. A buzzer-beater flew through
the air. His victorious team stomped off to the locker
room amid fist bumps. My son stiffly followed.
What is a parent to do? When your child is a newborn
wailing from the cradle, you dash over, eager to make the
baby happy. When your 5-year-old is intimidated by big
kids at the park, you stay nearby to lend courage. But
what do you do when your child is hurtingt at 15?
"Why me?!" my son yelled in the car later. "I'm the only
one who never goes in!" He crumpled forward in despair.
We were all frustrated. I knew that somewhere between
assault (a local dad had just been indicted for attacking
his son's baseball coach) and standing idly by must lie
an appropriate parental action, but what was it? I offered
vaguely: "Sometimes I hate sports."
"Okay, but we need to know what the coach
is thinking," Donny said.
"What am I supposed to do just ask him?"
An epiphany. The balance in the room shifted. He'd hit
upon a strategy and taken the ball from us.
"Well, what would you say?" asked Donny.
"I'd say, 'Why the hell don't you ever put me in?!"
We cleverly remained silent.
"No, I'll say, 'Coach, you're not putting me in. Is there
something I'm doing wrong?"
"That sounds good," I said, admiring the way he downshifted out of rage and into reasonableness.
A cold winter night fell quickly outside the school gym
the next evening as I waited for my son. "I did it," he reported, opening the car door. "I said, 'Coach, I haven't
played for four games and I'm wondering what I'm doing
wrong.' And he said, 'Why do you think?' And I said, 'It
might be because I'm not good enough. Or because I'm
new and I don't know the plays yet. Or because I missed
a practice.' And he said, 'If you weren't good enough, you
wouldn't have made the team. It's the second thing you
said—you don't know the plays yet."'
"How do you feel?" I asked, marveling at this sudden
"It's not the sport!" he shouted, storming into the house. maturity. "Better," he responded easily.
Sometimes, the appropriate parental action is paren"You don't understand!" I retreated upstairs to bed.
Ten minutes later, he peeked in. "Mom? Sorry." My tal inaction. While we stayed still, our son had grabbed
husband, Donny, and I leaned against our headboard. the ball, run with it, and scored.
"It's okay," I said. "Listen, Dad and I were just talking.
"Sometimes," I said, "I love sports?'
What if we go meet with your coach?"
Melissa Fay Greene is ajournalist and a two-time National
"No! I don't want to be the kid who plays because his
Book Awardfinalist. Her latest book, No Biking in the House
Without a Helmet, was released earlier this year.
parents complained," he said.