This post was born out of an email I sent to my weekly email subscriber list, titled “If only”. It had such a great response and one of my readers thought it would be a great blog post so that the message could reach more people. I was touched and of course I agreed. I hope you enjoy and find value from this personal story.
I recently I had a really tough, heartbreaking moment as a parent. I’ve been thinking on it a lot and I wanted to share the story because I believe it’s something we all experience in life at some point.
So here’s the story. After five seasons of flag-football my 8 year old son, Miles, finally convinced me he was ready for tackle. I hesitantly agreed and he joined a local Pop Warner team. Now it’s important to understand that football is his LIFE. He is obsessed with every aspect of it- like nothing I’ve seen before.
Luckily, he’s pretty good at it too. Great if you ask me. He’s one of the older kids on his team and since he has played some before he was designated as the quarterback. This position wasn’t his first choice. He wanted to be a wide receiver, but he stepped up and took it in stride.
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I watched this kid truly push himself at practice. There were times during suicide runs I could tell he wanted to stop (and maybe puke), but he didn’t. He did his, and then went out and ran back with a few of the slower, smaller kids. #proudmom
I watched him encourage his teammates, push beyond what even I thought he was capable of, and shine in every way. They won their first game, and then the next one. The team played so well together- all the boys and the coaches really cared. They won the following game and then did it again. Miles helped lead the team to an undefeated regular season. It was incredible! 8-0!
They were headed to the playoffs and the state championship!
So, I guess you’re probably asking yourself, “how was this a tough parenting moment?”
We’ll… it went downhill from here.
A week before the first playoff game (for the city title) there was an early snowstorm. Practice was cancelled all that week. It didn’t seem like a big deal because they were playing a team they had already beat twice.
But come game day it was clear the other team came to win. It was like they were playing a different team. The game was very equally matched. It was exciting and nerve-wracking to watch! The team was playing a great game! Miles was calling the plays and had even ran the ball in himself for two touchdowns and an extra point.
However, during the start of the 4th quarter, I noticed he went out of the game. This usually only ever happened if they were up by a ton, but the score was 20-26. They were at a critical moment.
Just then the team mom ran over to me and said that he must have pulled his groin muscle and wanted me to go over to him to check it out. He was in a lot of pain. His eyes were filled with tears. Between his whimpering breaths and sniffles, he told me that one of the coaches told him he was done for the day. But he looked me in the eyes and told me he couldn’t let his team down.
I asked him if he could run a little on the sideline, he did but I could tell it hurt. His team was on their last and final down of the play. Before I had a chance to talk to him again Miles ran over to the head coach and told him to put him back in. It wasn’t a question.
He got in position. Down, set, hike…. the ball was snapped, he faked the hand-off and ran for it. He blocked not one, not two, but three tackles. You could tell he wanted it so bad. He got the first down and the crowd erupted in cheers! A wave of pride came over me like nothing I’ve ever felt before (I am literally crying again as I am writing this, by the way).
1:26 left and 4 more downs to go. 1st, 2nd, 3rd…the other team held them. 4th and final down again. Ball snaps, fake hand-off, Miles runs for it, pushes for it. Lays it all out for 20 glorious yards into the end zone- or so we all thought.
He was tackled right at the goal line. The ball popped loose and the other team recovered it in the end zone, meaning the other team got 2 points for a touchback*. The game was over. The season was over.
They were so close. You could feel the collective sigh of sadness on the field and in the stands. They came all this way, it shouldn’t have ended like this. I couldn’t tell if Miles tears were from the pain or the loss, or both. I’ve never seen him so upset. He never cries. I was so heartbroken for him, but also so, so proud of the effort he put out that day and all season.
Despite hearing from his team, his coaches and us (and random people from the stands) how well he played, how much he stepped up and how proud everyone was of him, he blamed the loss all on himself.
That was the furthest thing from the truth but to him it felt that way. There was nothing anyone could say, including me, that was going to change how he felt.
The rest of that day, and the next, all he was talking about was “If only I had ran faster”, “If only I had practiced last week anyway” “If only we had more time” “If only I held on to the ball harder” “If only, if only, if only…”
It tore my heart into a million pieces.
So why am I telling you this?
Well, hearing all of his “if onlys” made me think of how many times I’ve said that to myself and how awful it is.
When something goes differently than you’d hoped or expected it is easy to escape into a world of “if onlys”.
If only I had more experience.
If only I had more money.
If only I had spoken up.
If only I was more confident.
If only I was a little bit taller and a baller.
“If onlys” are when you fabricate the perfect, exact scenario that would somehow make your life different or better.
But guess what? It won’t and it can’t. Imagining how something could have been different won’t make it so. It won’t change the past or even make you feel better.
You have to stop the “If onlys.”
I don’t want my son living in a sea of regret and if onlys, and I don’t want you to either.
It’s time to move away from the “if only” mindset.
“If onlys” only hurt you and hold you back.
Instead, think about all the things that did go right. All the great things you’ve done to get you to this point. Use your feelings (any disappointment, any hurt, any sadness) to fuel your future. Whatever perceived failures you’ve had, hold your head-up high.
Don’t focus on the fumble. Focus on the fact that you stepped up, you gave it your all and it you are going to be even better because of it. There are people that are so proud of you.
Here’s a little exercise you can use whenever the if onlys creep in.
- Grab a sheet of paper
- Write down your “if only…”
- Take a second to reflect on why you feel this way
- Now imagine your child or best friend has this “if only”
- Next, write exactly what you’d say to your child or best friend
- Take your own advice
- Finally, write down 3 things about this that you can do to be stronger and better in the future
Now get back out there!
Here’s to the next season, whatever that might be for you.
P.S. If you want to get more personal stories and behind the scenes info join my weekly newsletter! You can sign up on my homepage. I promise to only share the best GIFs and Beyonce references- no spam.
*Update: Not sure this makes the story any less heartbreaking, but later when the game footage came out- it was clear it wasn’t a fumble- his knee was down and then the ball came out. Bad call from the ref 🙁 It should have been a first down, and they should have won the whole damn thing. Luckily, his amazing coach sent the video to the league in hopes that it will help set higher standards for the referees next season. Fingers crossed.