This may be a little controversial so I will apologize up front, but I feel it is a question I must ask. It is a question I had to ask myself and a question I suggest you ask yourself. I’m not talking about the obvious cost of tennis on our bank account but rather the cost to our family. The demands of toting the kids to practice, and tournaments takes a big toll on what used to be called family life. When I stopped long enough to ask myself this question I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled with the answer. Perhaps that is when the crazy tennis mom stepped aside and I returned to being just plain old mom.
Clinic practice Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, private lessons Tuesday, tournaments Friday through Sunday at least two weekend of the month. That was the tennis schedule for the first four years of our sons tennis. Sit in the parent pick up line to pick up the younger two kids so we could leave on time to for the thirty minute drive to the court. Snacks and drinks packed to take with us so no-one was left hungry. Once at the court back packs where toted in with us so homework could get done. After practice back into the car for thirty minute ride back home (if traffic wasn’t bad), late night supper, get the younger ones ready for bed and make sure Alex was doing homework. At the time I thought I was super mom, I was able to do everything, tennis practice, homework, nourishment, I hit it all.
Then one day when I stopped to take a closer look I realized my family, in particular my younger children, were paying a pretty high price for their brother’s tennis. They spent four nights of the week sitting at a tennis court. Once their homework was done they were stuck their for another hour and a half to read or watch TV. But I had the answer, since we were at the tennis court anyway, they might as well join a clinic too. Yes I had all the answers, I could make this work for everyone. Did I mention that I didn’t ask the kids if they wanted to play tennis, I just assumed it would be a good idea?
As for the week-ends away, I had that all figured out as well. My husband generally stayed home with the younger two while I took Alex on the road for the week-end. When I look back at the situation I have to laugh or I just might cry. Some of the things we did to try to make it work were crazy. One week-end when I had to leave early on Friday we had trouble making arrangements for our daughter but we figured it out. I dropped her off at my husbands office and while he had a meeting she sat in his office and drew on his white board while his secretary kept an eye on her. What were we thinking?
My husband truly was (is) an amazing dad. He did everything he could to make sure the younger kids had quality time over the week-ends when I was out-of-town. He arranged sleep-overs and play dates, went out to dinner (that was because they didn’t like his cooking) and to the movies, pool, or park. One Friday night I got a phone call enquiring how to make pom poms. Our daughter had some girls over for a sleep-over and they wanted to do crafts. My “manly” husband was sitting with four little girls, wrapping yarn around his hands so the girls could make pom poms to cheer with. So how did the family suffer you ask? It looks like we covered it all, the kids were happy, having fun and not missing out on opportunities. In this case I was missing out on the opportunity. I should have been doing crafts with my daughter, I couldn’t join in on the conversation about the great movie they saw over the weekend. I was missing being an active participant in their lives.
So what price was our family paying for competitive tennis? A pretty high price I would say. We were living very separate lives, and rather than living in a home my children where living in a tennis club. When we stopped long enough to see what was happening we took the time to re-evaluate the situation. Was it fair to ask Alex to give up tennis, could we do it differently? No it wasn’t fair to ask him to stop and, yes we could do it differently. We could do it with a better balance and with better communication. The younger children got a greater say in what they wanted to do and, believe it or not, they wanted to help their brother succeed in his tennis and agreed to continue to go to the court for his practices. Instead of watching the practice I spent more time with the younger kids during that two-hour period doing activities they enjoyed. As for tournaments, we cut back on the frequency and we gave a lot of the responsibility over to his coach. Basically, I stepped back from the tennis, I became less involved and we stopped letting it infiltrate our lives through never-ending conversations about his progress, or matches. Tennis was no longer the center of our families universe. Coincidentally, when we let go our son started to take control and his maturing process began.
So here I sit writing a tennis blog. You may ask, are you sure it isn’t still dominating your life? I’m sure, I won’t let it!
So once again I will ask, what price is your family paying for competitive tennis? What is the pay off? Can you afford to pay the “bill?” Your answer may be different from mine but I can honestly say I am glad I didn’t run the bill up any higher. Since I have found a balance we have learned to enjoy the tennis as a complete family incorporating family vacations and quality time together. Most importantly, the younger kids have a great pride in their brothers accomplishments rather than a resentment.