The Sting Before The Tears

I can still remember fighting back the tears on the long drive home with my Dad. I had just blown my chance to play softball for Team Ontario, a team he coached, and we both knew it. Just a kid, it felt like my whole world was coming to an end. How was I going to look my buddies in the face and explain how I couldn’t even make a team that my Dad coached?

The real truth, though, is that I didn’t belong there in the first place. I had a surgically repaired knee and a skill set that was slightly below the other players. We sat silently as I stared out the car window, feeling the familiar sting of emotion rising up inside of me. I wasn’t accustomed to crying in front of my father and I wasn’t about to start now. I wondered why he wasn’t saying anything and remember getting upset at the silence, even though I had nothing to say that wouldn’t have ended up in tears.

My Dad was good like that. Many years and many disappointments later and I’m thankful that I was lucky enough to have someone who understood that sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. As we got closer to home that day, he reached over, grabbed my shoulder and gave it a consoling shake, as parents often do. It was only an instant but was enough to tip my teetering emotions from controlled to suspect. I started to feel that sting you get in your chest when you try to fight the emotions away, and I lost the fight. He allowed me to continue staring out the window, trying to hide my tears as if he didn’t know what was going on.

This is one of my favourite memories of my father and I think it sticks because it’s a lesson that I hope to pass on to my children through my actions as a father.

8 replies
  1. Georgia Read
    Georgia Read says:

    I will never forget that dear. He was as upset for you as you were for yourself but he couldn’t let you see that as it was something you had to work out for yourself. If it hadn’t been for your knee surgery your skill set was just as good if sometimes not better then some and he truly believed that.

    He was always proud of you and your brother (as I was and still am) matter what. As you will be with your son and daughter in all their endeavors. Hard to put into words his feelings as he and I discussed this issue at I guess my anger at the time and he made me understand why the decision was made the way it went. Beautifully written my son and you definitely are your fathers son!!

    Love Mom…

  2. Jack
    Jack says:

    It’s funny, as parents we become used to talking in depth about our childrens trials, often debating long into the night how we may have done things better or just trying to understand what they are going through. But, I know for myself, I often don’t think of my parents having those same conversations.

    Both the post and your mom’s response were just beautiful, thank you.

  3. Sean
    Sean says:


    That was a well-written, concise, and lovely piece.

    Mrs. Read: that comment just made me tear up a little bit at work. Bless you for expressing those sorts of things to your son, but thank you from Daddy Bloggers everywhere for writing it somewhere we could read it, as well.

  4. Brenda Hiemstra
    Brenda Hiemstra says:

    As a mom, there’s plenty of times when the words…

    ‘ You say it best- when you say nothing at all ‘

    ring so true.

    We want to fight our children’s battles, and slay every dragon in our children’s lives. We want to stand up and shout from the mountains when our kids have been wronged, and we battle stepping aside, to help our kids learn from their own battles.

    I think the hardest part of being a parent is that part when we sit, and say nothing at all..

    I’m so glad you realized later on, how incredibly special your dad’s silence was that day…

  5. neal
    neal says:

    Such a tricky line between letting your kids know it’s okay to express emotion, and encouraging them to be brave and master themselves. My three-year-old is pretty great at expressing emotion already, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be fighting back my own waterworks on the day that I see her fighting the battle to come to terms with loss and disappointment without completely falling apart. Great piece.

  6. seattledad
    seattledad says:

    Obviously it was the perfect thing reaction as you remember it all these years later. Sometimes we try too hard to fix everything. This is a good example where something not said is the best course of action.


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  1. […] always wondered what was going through his head as I sobbed quietly on the car ride home after being cut from a competitive team. I’m sure I’ll soon find out as my son enters the competitive age […]

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