There was a horrible moment at my son’s wrestling match last weekend when he suddenly stopped trying to escape from his opponent’s hold and laid down on the mat with a grimace on his face. The referee stopped the clock, his coach ran over to him, and then the trainer came over and started assessing him. From our vantage point in the bleachers it was clear that there was something wrong with his knee. It was hard to stand there watching, but that’s what parents are supposed to do.
After a few minutes our son got up, and everyone cheered. We were relieved, but then surprised to see the officials resetting the clock to finish out the match. While I was glad that my son felt good enough to keep competing, I was concerned that he might do more damage to his knee. Luckily it was the last match of the day, so he only had to push through for a few more minutes. (He put up a good fight, but ended up losing that match, taking second place for the tournament.)
When the match was over, he followed protocol and shook hands with his opponent’s coaches, and then came off the mat to be greeted by his good friend and co-captain, who embraced him with a hug.
That moment was so bittersweet! It was touching to witness the closeness of their friendship. I was proud of his friend for reaching out to him, and glad to see my son getting the support he so clearly wanted and needed. But I had to choke back tears as I realized that that was what he really wanted–support from his friend, not from his Mom!
I know that part of parenting a teenager is letting go, but I am realizing that this means not only letting our kids make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons, but also letting them develop their own relationships and build their own support systems. (It seems that parenting “experts” focus on the former without reminding us of the latter.) As hard as it is to not be the one my son wants when he’s hurting, it’s wonderful to know that he has really good friends who will be there for him.
Of course, I know that my son still needs me. Later that night he did ask me which pain reliever to take, and he even agreed to wrap his knee with Arctic Ease. I will be the one who takes him to the orthopedist, and I will share in his heartache if he is told that he needs to take some time off from wrestling. But I will understand if he thinks that only his friends really understand what he is going through–no matter how wrong he is!