Dear Mom of the Kid Who Refuses to Participate

by Susie Johnson
Originally Published: 
Little Boy Sitting On A Soccer Ball refusing to participate in a game

I saw you the other day.

Losing patience.

Gritting your teeth.






When you were pregnant, before your baby was born, you may have envisioned your son being a star baseball player.

Your daughter dancing in one of those adorable dance recitals.

And here you sit, at your wit’s end, with in inconsolable child who is so petrified he is clinging to you for dear life.

You have tried every single thing you can think of to get your kid to release the death grip he’s got on your leg and just give it a try.

But he won’t.

She won’t.

You look at all the other children who are happily participating.

What the hell is wrong with your kid?

Why the hell won’t she just fucking do it???

You start creating scenarios in your head.

Of your kid riding the bench for every single basketball game in high school.

Or not making the team at all.

The last kid to be picked for the kickball team.

Every time.

The insane conversations with yourself begin.

If she doesn’t get in that pool for swim lessons now, there is no way she will be a great swimmer. Or even a good one. Ever!

Where did I go wrong?

She will forever be behind all of her peers!

He needs to participate!


I mean, he’s already…


The more your kid refuses, the more anxious and angry you get.

What is wrong with you? Can you just puuhleeeeease try???

And now this “fun” activity you have signed your kid up for has become torture.

For both of you.

I know.

I’ve been there.

When Number 3 was three years old, I signed him up for this toddler basketball program at the Y.

It would be the perfect jump start to his basketball career.

The guy running the class was young and super cool, and he would be just right for Number 3.

Unfortunately, Number 3 didn’t realize that.

There were four other little boys in the class.

On the first day, they ran right over to the super cool instructor.

Number 3 ran right to me.

For eight weeks.

He never once participated.

And I literally lost sleep over this stupid class, worried that my three-year-old was going to somehow suffer in the long run.

Perhaps I should have focused more on how I was making him suffer in that moment.

He just wasn’t ready.

I just wasn’t able to see that.

So rather than listen to my kid, I listened to my inner psycho.

Basketball was too scary for him.

I should force him to do something less anxiety inducing.

I know!

Lace him into shoes with really sharp blades on them and stick him on a big ass sheet of ice!

The obvious and much less scary solution.

And I signed him up for ice skating lessons.

Because, clearly, if he was going to be a great ice hockey player, he would need to learn how to ice skate at a young age.

I have no idea why I did this.

I hate the cold.

And I’ve never even seen an ice hockey game.

Not surprisingly, he was terrified.

He had a white knuckled grasp on my arm that would require the Jaws of Life to remove as I dragged him to the side of the rink.

I pretty much put my foot on his ass and shoved him through the narrow opening onto the ice.

He was crying and screaming and pleading.

But I was determined to force my petrified four-year-old to learn how to ice skate.

His ice hockey career depended on it.

Each week I would give him a day to recover from the trauma of Saturday’s lesson, and then I would start the Aren’t you excited for skating lessons on Saturday? conversation on Tuesday or Wednesday.

I bribed him with candy and superhero costumes and DVDs and all sorts of crap.

Nothing worked.

I could try to force it all I wanted.

He just wasn’t ready.

And he never actually participated in one of those ice skating lessons either.

So all of this came back to me as I watched you the other day.

I know what it feels like.

And here’s what I want you to know.

It will happen.

He will get there someday.

How do I know?


Well, that panic-stricken three and four-year-old that I tried to force onto the court and the ice is now nine years old.

He’s one of the best baseball players on his team.

He’s a great swimmer.

He’s a talented basketball player who, as I’m told by his coach, has a great free throw.

And do you know what he said to me just last week?

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“Hey Mom? Can I take skating lessons some time?”

So don’t sweat it.

I know it’s hard to be patient and it’s easy to worry.

But one day he will be ready.

It may be in five minutes.

Or it may be in five years.

Either way, sit back and relax.

Your kid won’t miss out.

And when he is ready, he will be sure to let you know.

Related post: Saying Goodbye to the Sideline

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