A Little Boy’s Dream, Part 2

When Nigel started wrestling two months ago at his high school, I was elated and optimistic. This, as I wrote previously, was something that he’d wanted for a very long time, and he made it happen. Surely that meant that this was the beginning of great things in his life, that this would be his niche, that by junior or senior year I’d be attending state championships and even nationals with him, filming him as he won matches, cheering, crying with joy that he achieved success on his own terms.  I could see it happening. I could almost feel it. I wanted it for my son. But I knew that his first season would be a time of learning, since he hadn’t wrestled before, and I had talked with him about not feeling bad if he lost a lot of matches his first season. I told him that I had heard from other parents that their sons lost a lot of matches their first season, but they just kept practicing, and by their second season, they were winning matches.

The season is now two-thirds of the way over, and he has not lost any matches. But that’s because he hasn’t been in any matches. He hasn’t been in any tournaments. The only time he gets to actually wrestle is during practice. At least, that’s what I thought.

I picked him up from practice last week, as I usually do. He got in the car, I asked him how his day had been, and he said, “Fine,” as he usually does. I pulled out of the parking lot and began driving home. And then he said something that made me want to sob.

“I think there must be an odd number of people on the team, because whenever it’s time to pair up for practice, I always end up without a partner.”

He had said it with trust and diplomacy, without blame, and without self-pity. But I could hear his underlying disappointment. I could hear the frustration he’d learned to suppress from years – a lifetime – of being left out. Of not being understood. Not being accepted.

A few weeks ago, it was proposed by his case manager and the coach that we reduce his time at daily practice because he was complaining of being too tired to do his school work, and I had agreed. But I didn’t know that he was being excluded during practice, and I wondered how long it had been going on. I took a deep breath.

“Have you talked to the coach about it?” I asked. As much as I want to jump in and be mama bear, I am trying to hold back and give him the support to advocate for himself.

“Yes. But I don’t remember what he said.”

“Well, maybe you could talk to him about it again, and suggest to him that if there is an odd-numbered amount of people, that perhaps a few could rotate. Since you leave early, you could work with someone first, and then when you leave, the other person would get their turn.”

“Hey, that’s a good idea,” he said with interest. “I think that would work.”


Five days later, I ask Nigel if he’d talked to the coach again, and if he’d been getting a partner at practice.

“Yes, for a little while,” he says. “But I’m starting to think that this being thrown around all the time is too hard on my body. Wrestling’s not how I thought it would be.”

This is new information, and part of me suspects that he’s trying to talk himself out of wrestling because he hasn’t been in any matches or tournaments. I remind him that the first season is a learning season for everyone, and ask him if he would like me to talk to the coach about making sure that he gets to do at least one match before the season is over. He declines my offer. I remind him that he’d been wanting to do this since he was a little kid.

“Yeah,” he says. “And I did it. I wanted to be on the high school wrestling team, and I am. That’s all I really wanted to do, besides inventing a time machine and being the first human on Mars.”

And it hits me – he just wanted to be on the team. That was his dream. Not finding his niche, or going to state championships or nationals – those were my dreams. And as long as he’s happy that he followed his dream, that’s all I really care about. I put my arm around him and tell him how proud I am of him. I ask him if he’d like to continue practicing the remaining four weeks of the season.

“No. I just don’t think wrestling’s my sport. It’s too painful. But I’m glad I tried it, despite the fact that it wasn’t what I thought it would be.”

I tell him that I’m glad that he tried it too, and then we go over what he should say when he calls the coach to tell him that he’s not going to do wrestling anymore. I remind Nigel that he should tell the coach thank you for the opportunity to be on the team, and that it meant a lot to him.

It meant a lot to me, too.

19 thoughts on “A Little Boy’s Dream, Part 2

  1. Tera

    Yes! He did exactly what he set out to do. I’m so proud of you Nigel!!! His dream came true, thus so did yours…in the end. Kaeden is in Judo. He used to attend tournaments, but the great stress it put him under for days took away all the fun. Now, all he does is practice and he LOVES it. Be glad Nigel didn’t want to compete…in our case, it really was just too much.

    I hope Nigel goes to Mars, maybe in his time machine? 🙂

  2. Paulene Angela

    There is so much of what you have written here really hits hard on my heart, A lifetime – of being left out, frustration, suppress, not being understood, not being accepted.

    At the same time, joy enters reading the lines ……. giving Nigel support to advocate for himself, a wonderful gift from a mother. Nigel completing his dream.

    Hugs from a mama bear, who believes in dreams.

  3. Jenn E

    Nigel tried and that’s more then we can say of alot of people. He’s grateful for the experience and he learned something from it.

    I’m proud of him and his beautiful Mom!

  4. pixiemama

    I’m so proud of Nigel on so many levels – that he had a goal; that he was brave enough to try it; that he did his best; and that he was able to admit it wasn’t what he had envisioned, and it’s OK to let go when the dream doesn’t unfold the way you thought it might. What a smart boy.

    And what a wonderful mom for supporting his decisions.

    love you.

  5. Jan

    I’m so impressed with Nigel’s ability to understand–and articulate–what he wanted and what he now wants. Amazing maturity in a kid his age!

    And I’m also impressed with you, your ability to separate your dreams from his. I want to say that it’s part of the grieving process we all go through, the loss of those dreams we had of what our children would do. But really, I have that same experience with my son (high-achieving, NT) as with my daughter. His high school experience is turning out to be much different from my vision of what it would be like.

    So maybe it’s just parenthood in general. Great job, nonetheless!

  6. Macrina

    Congratulations Nigel! That was a good goal to have and achieve! I wish I could have been content just to have been on the team in my high school sports; sometimes I tried so hard and still was never very happy with it.

  7. Carrie N

    This is a great example of encouraging our kids to pursue their own dreams.

    You do such a wonderful job enabling him to do just that.

    (He is so articulate and straight forward!)

  8. Jess Wilson

    Oh Tanya – this damn near killed me. I’ve been back three times and I’m still tripping over words.

    I learn so very much from you, my friend. Thank you again.

  9. corrie

    I echo everyone’s comments. Nigel continues to mature quickly. I imagine him to be like Jonathan in some ways…an encouragement to others.

  10. Kim

    I learn so much from the both of you every time I read your blog. You are an amazing mother and Nigel, my goodness, so proud of him. To follow your dream and to decide when enough is enough. Tough stuff on so many levels.

  11. Lex Savko

    This is something Nigel should look at with pride. Whenever anyone asks in the future, “What did you do in high school?”, he can say, “I was on the wrestling team”, just like I tell people, “I was on the tennis team”. It is HIS accomplishment, and I hope he’s proud.

  12. Nicki

    Its great that Nigel made his dream of joining the wrestling team happen! Sometimes once you try things, you find out they’re not all they cracked up to be… but if he hadn’t tried it, he would have always wondered what would have happened if he had!!!

  13. Michelle

    OMG! How did I miss this post?

    It is so hard sometimes to not “go all the way” with it in our minds. So glad you are giving Nigel the choice to move forward into his next dream. So glad he had the opportunity to wrestle. Both of you have so much to be proud of.

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