From the time we’re teenagers, we’re taught to control our emotions. As we get older, people tell us not to make emotional decisions.
We see our emotions, particularly the ones in the moment, as being at odds with the rational decision-making side of our thought processes.
We roll our eyes and shake our heads when a teenager makes decisions or declarations that seem driven more by the hormones surging through their growing bodies than by the intellect we hope they’ve developed.
And yet, every so often, we and our teenagers take those raw emotions out for a few hours or even days.
This past weekend, my wife and I did our periodic Texas two-step, where she brought our son to his baseball game in one state and I drove hundreds of miles to our daughter’s volleyball tournament in another.
The journey involves considerable effort, finding food that doesn’t upset allergies or sensitive stomachs at a time when indigestion or a poorly timed pit stop could derail the day.
The games themselves are filled with a wide range of emotions, as a player’s confidence and ability can rise and fall quickly from one point to the next, with slumping shoulders quickly replaced by ecstatic high fives.
In the stands and outside the lines, the emotional echoes continue to reverberate.
One girl sat next to her father, sobbing uncontrollably with her ankle high on the chair in front of her. Her father put his arm around her shoulders and spoke quiet, encouraging words into her ear. Her coach came over, in front of a stand filled with strangers, and said the girl would be able to play the next day as soon as the swelling in her ankle went down — the coach didn’t want to risk further injury. The girl nodded that she heard her coach, but couldn’t stop the torrent of tears.
Not far from her, a mother seethed as her daughter missed a shot. The mother was angry, defensive and, eventually, apologetic to the parents of the other players for her daughter’s performance. Other parents assured her that it was fine and that everyone could see her daughter was trying her best.
Another parent hooted and hollered, clapping long after the point ended, as her daughter rose above her diminutive frame to hit the ball around a group of much taller girls.
Many of the emotional moments included unbridled joy, as a group of girls continued to embrace each other after winning a tough match, replaying point after point and laughing about the time the ball hit them in the head or they collided with a teammate on the floor.
What will they remember next week, next month or in 20 years? Will it be satisfying when they find a picture of a younger version of themselves, beaming from ear to ear with girls they may not have seen for many years?
Even if they do think about one particular point or a strategic decision that paid off in a game against talented competition, they will also remember where and how they expressed those raw, dramatic emotions.
While feelings can get in the way of whatever grand plan we’re executing in our head, holding us back from
taking a risk or preventing us from showing how much we care, they can and do enhance the way we experience our lives. Despite all the work driving behind slow-moving vehicles which take wide right turns and encourage you to call a number to let someone know how they’re driving, the effort — even when the event doesn’t turn out as well as we might hope — is well worth the opportunity to drop the mask and indulge those emotions.