WE ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS WITH A LIFETIME CONTRACT ~ Phyllis Koss
When our kids were little our weekends revolved around the YMCA watching them play every sport offered. Every season brought something new and we found immense joy seeing our children conquer their first steps in basketball, soccer, flag football and cheerleading. Almost as important as watching our kids stumble around the field or court were the friendships we made with other sports parents. The coffee talk at the morning games and the spontaneous lunch or ice cream outings with these families were some of my favorite memories of our kids’ early sports years.
Everyone was happy. Even if the team lost there were still smiles and high fives and a tunnel to run through at the end of the game. As years went by the six-week YMCA sports seasons turned into semester-long specialized sports training then year-long travel/club sports commitments began to take over most of our lives. We then divided into soccer, gymnastics, basketball, football and lacrosse families. Everyone’s schedule became so intense that we rarely, if ever, had the chance to connect over coffee, share birthday cupcakes with the team or grab a beer and wings at the local pub after a hot afternoon match.
Gone were the Saturday mornings when the whole family got in the car to attend the sporting events for the day. Now Saturday morning was planned the Monday before, in everyone’s planners, on the refrigerator calendar, and in alerts on smart phones. “You go there, I’ll go here, then we’ll meet and swap kids then maybe I’ll be there by half-time, if not send them with so and so and we’ll meet up back at home tonight or tomorrow when the tournament finishes.”
The years of “dividing and conquering” had begun. Not just on the weekends but during the week as well. Not just other families but ours too would be separated most nights as we drove our three kids to different practices at different times in different locations.
We found ourselves scheduling everything around their schedules. And we weren’t alone. Almost all of our friends have kids who are in sports, most of whom are highly successful athletes living the same life in a different house. I love these families and respect their dedication and commitment to their children’s goals and dreams.
But as our kids have gotten older I’ve seen an alarming amount of these families begin to crumble…from the top. I remember sitting in a church marriage seminar with my husband when we were newlyweds. The speaker drew a pyramid on the white dry-erase board at the front of the room. At the top he wrote “GOD”. Below he wrote, “HUSBAND & WIFE”. Below that was “KIDS”. Below that was “EXTENDED FAMILY”. And so on…through friends, work, etc.
His point was to never lose focus on the pyramid. He told us to live our life from the top then go down. Never from the bottom up or in between. He said, “Always…always put your marriage first, above your children. Because without a strong husband/wife relationship there is nothing. And your marriage won’t last.”
Over the past few years our insane sports schedule has sometimes taken over our family life. We were focusing more on the losses and disappointments our kids faced on and off the field and the life lessons they painfully were going through more so than spending quality time together as a married couple, away from the kids, away from the field.
We are surrounded by friends who were once smiling at each other at the YMCA games and holding hands walking back to the car. Not so much anymore. We often witness our friends fight over how their spouse reacts or doesn’t react to their child during or after a game. Parents who don’t sit together on the sidelines anymore and who disagree on training options, coaches or school choices based on sports. Parents who never see each other because of the logistical nightmare they endure every evening their kids jump in multiple cars to go to practice.
We have been there. We have fought and cried and lost sight of what that church speaker told us almost 20 years ago. We had toppled off the pyramid and were free-floating in the youth sports milky way.
Fortunately for us, we have a strong foundation in our marriage and I have a husband who will do anything and everything to make me feel like there is no one else in this world that matters more. People often compliment our marriage and ask how we do it. My response is always, “We work hard at it. We are honest and real and don’t get lazy with our relationship. Marriage is not perfect, nor will it ever be but with hard work, huge love and respect, it will last.”
So anytime we start to veer off track we quickly find ways to reconnect and prioritize our relationship. We plan more date nights, we have wine by the fire pit after a long day of sports, and don’t talk about sports! We constantly remind each other to stay present in our life together. But it’s hard, trust me I know. It’s easy to get caught up in our kids’ lives. Everybody does it but no one talks about it. So I am. For better or for worse don’t let your pyramid fall apart.