Imagine you are a young person who has never played basketball. You've seen the teams, and you admire their jerseys, their ability, and their talent. You think to yourself, "Wow, playing basketball looks really amazing... I think I should join the team!" You imagine yourself making slam dunks and three point shots. You see yourself as an amazing player and an asset to the team. You're really interested, so you even try out a few little pick-up games of basketball here and there. You feel pretty confident in your abilities, and you are sure you will only get better with real experience. Since you're interested in basketball, you also observe games and other players. You are able to pick out every mistake they make, and you are convinced that you will never fall into the same problems they experience because, obviously, you have a much better understanding of the game and the skills it requires.
Finally, the time is right for you to join the team. You try out, and maybe you have to try out multiple times to make the team, but eventually you make it! You're on the team! You are so excited and full of expectation as to what your future will hold. From day one though you are thrown off by how hard it is to be the team. You didn't realize how many hours of drills and hard work this would entail. You're exhausted and overwhelmed by all the new skills you need to learn. You watch experienced players and try to model yourself after them. You watch game tapes and hope to somehow figure out what you're doing and to be successful at it. There is so much more to this than what you thought before. You find your confidence crumbling under the realization that you are really not prepared for how hard it is to be on this team.
The team starts playing games, and instead of landing three point shots and slam dunks, as you imagined yourself, you wind up fouling out and missing shot after shot. You're not one to give up though. You keep trying and you keep running after the ball. Sometimes you think you're on the way to a really great shot, when the opposing team suddenly steals the ball right out from under you and you find yourself running at the back of the pack again. Oh, its not all misses though. You make some great shots and hear the roar of the crowd. You also do a lot of great assists and good defense- those things that no one really sees, but you know that they matter.
You watch other team members making great shots and scoring points, way more points than you. It seems like those team members are connecting with the game and understanding the ins and outs of it all, and you're struggling. Sometimes you even question why you signed up for the team at all. What were you thinking? You thought you could be good at this game? How foolish!
And sometimes you get hit, and you hit the floor, hard. Nobody told you about that. It hurts and your whole body radiates with the pain. Those hits can come out of nowhere, from unexpected places, or you can see them coming a mile away, but they still hurt more than you ever thought possible. It feels like its going to consume you, and yet you get up. You may limp along for a while, but you keep moving and you learn to keep going in spite of the pain.
Quitting is not an option for you. You're gonna stick this out. Through twisted ankles, bruised body, exhaustion and frustration, no matter how wounded or tired you become, you keep showing up everyday. You accept that you're not a star player and you will probably never make those amazing game winning shots you once dreamed of. But you are a part of this team and you will keep running that court, and trying to make the shots, and hoping that sometimes you will hit it just right. Sometimes you do... and sometimes you don't... but you're on this team for the long haul and you will keep getting up each day, putting on your shoes, and playing the game the best you can, with the hope that in the end you will have made more shots than you missed.
This is what parenting feels like to me.