By Karen Borta

Three years ago, my son taught me a lesson I thought would stay with me forever. I guess it didn’t stick too well because last week I had to learn it all over again.

Toward the end of his sixth grade year while we were all sitting down to dinner one night, Jake announced his intention to run for student council vice-president—and that he would “rap” his speech to the student body.

I was horrified. Jake wasn’t a rapper! He could play Beethoven on the piano, and win a Geography Bee, but rap? No. My maternal instincts kicked into overdrive. I wanted to protect him from the monumental embarrassment I was sure would follow. It took every ounce of willpower I possessed to keep my trap shut and let him take that risk.

A week or so later, he rapped his speech to the wild acclaim of his fellow students, and he won the election.

It was a huge lesson for me: if I want my children to grow into the people my husband and I want them to be, I can’t hover so closely I never let them spread their wings.

Fast-forward to last week. Freshman football season is finally over, and Jake decided he wanted to try out for the JV soccer team.

Monday’s practice was awful. Jake realized quickly that many of the other boys had grown up playing select youth soccer and had skills far superior to his.

He showed up for practice the following day anyway, but it ended up being even worse. He was put in at goalie, a position he’d never played before. The outcome was predictably disastrous.

When Wednesday’s practice ended in yet more frustration for him, the helicopter-parent in me was ready to tell him to skip Thursday’s tryouts. After all, so many boys were trying out a full one-third of them would be cut. Why should he put himself through such misery just to face the inevitable rejection? But I held my tongue, and he went through with the tryouts, which– went really WELL!

Jake learned the following day that against all expectations—or mine, anyway– he had indeed made the team. I couldn’t be more proud of him. Not because he made the soccer team, but because he gutted it out even when the odds were stacked against him.

Lesson learned. For real this time.