Dear style & substance:
My son recently finished up his soccer season as a senior, and is almost inconsolable – his team lost in the final round and of course, this is not the glorious end of season he anticipated. I want to keep up our relationship, but am at a loss with how to manage this one. I guess I fear that this is just the start of communication differences and don’t want to miss the opportunity to connect with him. I feel like I am becoming an–Inconsolable Mom!
We find that the end of a sports season, particularly for a senior, is both sad and a little frightening. The sadness may come from a place of “never again”…will I ever again play competitive soccer, will I play with this great team, will I ever have a coach like this. As in most of life, the answer to a dilemma usually comes in small moments of clarity:
“The opposite of the happy ending is not actually the sad ending--the sad ending is sometimes the happy ending. The opposite of the happy ending is actually the unsatisfying ending.”
— Orson Scott Card
His sadness may come from the unsatisfying ending – your son has worked hard for years and arriving at this ending was not what he, or his teammates, had in mind. Disappointment after a hard won fight is a tough nut to crack. Even if your son is in the process of moving forward, feeling unsatisfied leaves a sense of unfinished business.
Focusing on the sadness, the most present, is what should be addressed first. We remember many rides home in the car at the end of the season, which very often is also a loss of the last game, race or match. We think the best approach is meeting your son’s emotions where he is. If he is silent, be silent, if he is talking, talk back. Hug him, tell him it was a great season and understand that he may need to just be alone with his sadness. Remember that your emotions and feelings of loss are less important than his feelings.
When he is ready, you can also help your son re-frame the experience: rather than ending with a loss, encourage him to look at the whole season, the whole team, and his whole career on the soccer field. He is most likely inconsolable because soccer is and has been a touchstone in his life – help him to remember how the game has shaped his character and how his character will shape his future.
The end of seasons and eras in our children’s lives suggests the growing, and possibly separating, that we know will happen, but somehow, parents and children seem surprised every time they reach a new “last time”.
I (Michele) recently finished reading The Zahir, the second book by Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho, my Book Club has read. We mention this only to point out that change, loss, and disappointment are universal - your son is maturing into the man he will be for the rest of his life, and his response, both short term and long term, to loss (with some help from his parents) can help guide him through many future moments of loss and joy.
“It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.”
— Paulo Coelho, The Zahir
And one more thing to remember, it is these growing moments that hurt most at the time, but really teach us the most in the long run. He can maybe even write his college essay based on his latest experience!!
A S K Style & Substance:
Michele Armani and Sally Meisenheimer
creative life coaching solutions
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