And the Winner of Most Improved Parent Is…

The end is in sight! We’ve nearly made it out the other side of the pandemic. Yet I sometimes miss those early months of quarantine where the focus was pure survival. Spirits were low, but so were expectations. Teachers and parents were more lenient as we all navigated unknown, unpredictable waters. Now that things are slowly getting back to normal, the pressure to be a Parent MVP is creeping back in. The urge to compare gets stronger every day, as does my old pal, anxiety.

As is often the case in parenting, my son taught me a lesson about comparison, expectations, and what kind of dad I should strive to be: Most Improved.


My son doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to sports. Between his ADHD, strong emotions, and a general lack of stamina, he’s never been much of a team player — much less a star athlete. And while he has an abundance of initial excitement, the inevitable obstacles often erode his confidence. What starts out fun turns into discouragement, frustration, and ultimately, abandoning the sport altogether.

So, when after just a couple of weeks of middle school, Jon asked to sign up for soccer, I was hesitant and more than a little skeptical. I explained that soccer had a LOT of running, and wouldn’t he rather get acclimated to his new school and wait for baseball in the spring? But once again I gave into his excitement — excitement for new friends and teammates, as well as an entirely new sport.


When I picked Jon up after his first practice, I could tell he was exhausted. He quickly chugged a bottle of water and told me his chest hurt. The coach had asked them to run laps, and he’d only made it halfway through before resorting to walking. I tentatively asked my out of breath boy if he wanted to stick with it. He surprisingly proclaimed he loved it and couldn’t wait for the next practice.

The next week positions were assigned, and as he was the only one to volunteer, my son became the team’s sole goalkeeper. Probably the best fit for a kid that didn’t like to run.

But at the start of the first game, I saw a floppy-haired player hauling ass across the field to the net. It was my son! This kid was full of surprises.

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