It couldn’t have been easy having a Mom who was a Motivational Speaker…..and was sometimes seen as being “kind of out there”.
I tried my best to exercise self-restraint while attending the sporting events of our son Austin. For almost two decades, I tried everything within my power to sit still. I even tried sitting on my hands to see if that would help. Gathered around me on the bleachers were other Moms who were poised, in control and non-emotional. On my part, this lack of exuberance only lasted about ten minutes. It burst out of control when “our” Little League Coach used foul language toward “our” boys. “Catch the damn ball”, he cried out to one boy. Next he shouted to another boy, “What the hell is wrong with you?”…… I was never a cheerleader and unless I was on stage speaking at a convention or conducting a training workshop, I quietly participated in activities. However, in this case, I didn’t care. I’ll always respect the call of an Umpire and the leadership style of a Coach, but there was no excuse for bad or negative language toward anyone; especially not eight year old boys. As I leaped off the bleachers and ran onto the field to address the Coach, I knew I was never going to be a “bench warming Mom”. The Coach tried to tell me that he didn’t use the word, “Damn” and he insisted he used the word, “Tham”. Really? He expected us to believe that “Tham” is a word. I knew I had the attention of the parents when I told the coach, “If you want us to believe this, then you’re really YUCKED-UP.” That was the day I revealed my deeper “Mom” spirit.
Regardless of being the only mother who applauded with exuberance; complimented the other team when they were exceptional; and always inspired our team, I knew it had to make our son uncomfortable. He never said a word to me about wishing I’d hold back or wanting me to be more reserved like the robot Moms who sat beside me. I tried with all my might to bite my tongue and not regularly offer words of encouragement. Then one day, our team was way behind in the score. It was the eighth inning and I heard shouts coming from the dugout of our team. The boys were yelling, “Go get Austin’s Mom….she can help us win”.
As Austin grew older and much larger, baseball turned into football and the crowds on the bleachers grew larger too. The parents and cheerleaders were supportive when the team was winning; not when they were behind. It was a major playoff game and our team was behind. The parents were quiet and I stood up and shouted out to the crowd, “This is when our team needs us the most. Stand up!” No one did. This is the moment when MY power shifted. I spotted Austin on the field and I yelled out to him. “Austin! Austin!” Quite a few seconds pass and he didn’t move. I wasn’t sure if he was purposefully trying to ignore me or if he truly didn’t hear me. Suddenly, he turned around and looked up at me in the stands. Among all the other parents who had slumped into a sea of disappointment on the bleachers, I was the only one standing up. Again I shouted, “Austin, you know you have what it takes to turn these guys around. Get in there and do what you know you can do. They believe in you…like we do.” As he turned away from me, he pulled off his helmet and dropped it on the field. My heart sunk as I thought I had embarrassed him beyond repair. Slowly he turned around to face his team-mates. He turned his palms up toward the sky and reached out to his sides. He ran out to the rest of the players and clapped his hand up and down over his head. He motivated them to get the applause going and shift the energy up. He shouted words of encouragement and a few of the parents stood up and joined me in the bleachers. The energy and excitement was infectious and exhilarating. I’d love to tell you that they went on to win that game; but they didn’t. What they did win was a lot more than a game; they won their pride and discovered a unified spirit through their personal power.
Austin is twenty-nine years old and is a successful businessman. Last night he was home for dinner and I had a beautiful conversation with him. It was his response to my apology that melted my heart. I said, “Austin, it must have been difficult for you as a young boy, to have a Mom who was so out-there and shouting words of encouragement to everyone, regardless of the team they were on. I know I certainly felt the stares and looks from some of the other parents who sat properly on the benches. Some of them were careful to not sit too close. I guess they feared I was contagious. I am sorry if I ever embarrassed you; will you forgive me?” He reached across the table and extended me a fist pump and said, “I know exactly what you gave up for me Mom; I even knew back then. You need to know that according to me and all the other kids, you are always the bomb.”
Standing out in the crowd isn’t always easy. Being the positive voice in an office of negative comments or in a family that is full of doubt, can be a challenge. Sometimes you have to be the powerful yet polite voice for those who can’t speak up for themselves. Please stick with it…..believe in your heart that what you’re doing is coming from a place of optimism, encouragement and love.
And always, always trust that “You are the bomb”.