Have you ever been to crazy town? Crazy town is a place where you get to act crazy, and people pretend it’s normal. I was in crazy town this weekend. I was at a kids’ youth wrestling tournament.
When you walk into a gym and there is a little kids’ youth wrestling tournament going on, you need to know that normal rules for behavior do NOT matter. If you are a parent, and your young child is wrestling at a youth tournament, you get to act crazy.
It isn’t the parents’ fault. If you have not watched much wrestling, and you bring your cute little baby offspring into a gym to wrestle other people’s cute little baby offspring, there’s almost a 100 percent chance you will fall under the crazy spell.
It happened to me. I remember the first time Eddie wrestled. He was in Kindergarten. He begged us to let him wrestle at a tournament, so we did. I remember his first match. He was getting pinned. His big brown eyes were looking right at me, and he looked scared. Spontaneous tears came to my eyes. I looked to my right. My mom was crying too. I had all I could do to not march out on that mat and tell that other boy that he was not being very nice. How would he like it if someone pinned him? Then, maybe I’d try and show him. I’m surprised his mamma didn’t teach him better manners.
Most parents are not prepared for the intensity. Some parents are, and they find every way they can to make it worse. Not too long ago Scott talked on the phone to a parent with a batch of his own preschool through 3rd grade children. The dad asked Scott if our youth program could challenge his kids. The dad was a little skeptical, because he told Scott his kids were wrestlers AND endurance athletes.
Scott laughed. He said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I think you must be cutting out. I thought you said your little kids were endurance athletes.”
The Dad answered, “I did. They are.”
I guess it’s never too early for your six-year-old to start training for the Ironman. That Dad was smart to be skeptical. We would not have a program that would satisfy him. The program run in our area focuses a little more on fun, a little less on 20 mile training runs.
I think parents of little youth wrestlers should have to take a class before they go to their first tournament. The class would help them learn ways to avoid falling under the crazy spell. Here is what they’d learn:
National pride is not at stake. Your child will not be taking home a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal. This is not televised. Absolutely no one in this world will be disappointed if your child loses, except you. This is not the Olympics. Don’t act like it is.
The children you’re screaming at were recently living in a womb. Babies. That’s what they are. You’re screaming and yelling at two babies. Babies need love, encouragement, calm correction and positive examples. Stop yelling at them. That’s scary. If they’re used to it, that’s even scarier.
Back up. Please. Please. Back up. Stop creeping out on the mat. I don’t know what you are doing. Are you trying to get in on the action? If you are, I’m putting money on you. I think you definitely could win against that 2nd grader out there. Maybe you’re trying to make sure your child hears you over the yelling of the other parent. If that’s the case, then see point two.
I remember a match Zeke wrestled. He was little. It was close. Scott was not there. I was no match for the dad and the Grandpa who were both creeping out as far as they legally could, hovering over the two 3rd graders on the mat. They screamed as loudly as they could; neat and encouraging things like, “Finish him!!!!”
I don’t even remember who won; probably the other boy. I just remember feeling like my shy son just endured unnecessary trauma. I couldn’t do anything to protect him, because I guess those two jackwagons were acting normal. If normal is crazy, that is.
You’re in your own wrestling match. You are wrestling with your emotions. I promise you, your opponent is tougher than whomever your son or daughter is wrestling. Every time your child wrestles, and you keep a lid on Cuckoo the clown, and act like a happy, mature and calm adult, you win. Cuckoo is one strong hunk-a-crazy. You’ve got your work cut out for you.
Don’t tell people that your child didn’t get a good night’s sleep when he loses (us moms are especially good at this). Don’t make excuses. There’s nothing to excuse. He lost, and that’s okay. Embrace it. He learned something new. He’s a baby. He doesn’t know how to be a good sport when he loses until you teach him. Good sports don’t whine. Good sports say, “I lost. My opponent was better than me today. I will work hard and keep trying.”
Don’t talk about the other guy before the match. Major rooky mistake. If you are a parent, and you know the stats and records of all the other second grade wrestlers, you’re going to need to call up your therapist. Parents get in their kids’ heads with that stuff. They say, “You’ve got this guy next. He beat this other guy, but you beat a guy that beat that other guy. So you can beat this guy.”
I bet you think I’m making that up. I’m not. Kids focus too much on the other guy all on their own. They don’t need their parents help. Zeke told me that when he was younger he could get psyched out before a match by looking at the other guy’s socks. He thought surely if the kid is wearing socks THAT cool, then that kid must know what he’s doing. Any sports psychologist will tell you that you’re better off focusing on what YOU do well, and improving your own strengths. Focusing on the other guy is wasted, negative, energy.
Remember God has entrusted you with a family. Whether you’re a single parent, have one child or six, what you have going on is a lot more than that wrestling match you’re watching. Wrestling can offer an opportunity for your family to share great memories, support one another and be close. Or, it can serve to hurt you and your relationships with the people you love most.
I remember one year Eddie was really, really sick. He had missed almost the entire school year. He wanted to wrestle so badly. As long as Eddie has been able to walk and talk, he has wanted to wrestle. You know how some kids are just born loving something? That’s him. We kept praying and hoping that his illness would let up, and he would be able to participate in the wrestling season he loved so much.
Finally, at the end of the season, he experienced some relief. It was the weekend of Regionals; Eddie’s last chance to try to make it to youth state. He was weak. He had circles under his eyes, and he had been to only several practices the entire season. I would have liked to tell him to take a pass on Regionals. It seemed ridiculous to try to throw him out there against healthy kids who have been preparing for this and practicing almost every day.
Sometimes moms just have to let their kids do hard things. Sometimes your instinct to protect them is the wrong instinct. I hate that.
Eddie wrestled and he did not make it to state. He put out a tremendous effort, really. He came quite close. We were sad. We were sad because we knew he wanted to go to State. But, we were also sad because when he was small we took it for granted that he would always be able to do what he wanted to do most. We were wrong.
Eddie was an eternal optimist. We thought he may be wondering himself why life seemed to be especially difficult for him. Seeing him so sad was causing his parents some serious grief.
Then I remember Zeke and Olivia stopping Eddie as we walked down the hallway, out of the school. They wanted to hug him. They were sad too. I could tell their love and support made him feel better.
We decided to go out to eat on the way home to celebrate. We were celebrating that we were a family. We were celebrating that we love each other. We were celebrating something sad that happened and a serious challenge in our lives. We were celebrating that challenge because it had given us an opportunity to realize just how much we love each other.
That experience and others like it have served as my short course out of crazy town. Our challenges have broken the crazy spell for me, and helped me realize that wrestling is one of the most fun things we have experienced as a family. Wrestling has offered my kids and their parents opportunities to grow closer. Wrestling has given our family opportunities to meet great people, make new friends, and grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And, what I am particularly grateful to have learned is that I can NEVER again use wrestling as an excuse to live in crazy town.