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Learning to Be a Team Player

Being a single parent to an only child is a wonderful gift. I’ve been blessed with a kind child who loves me, talks openly with me and is pretty independent for her age. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the financial benefits, the lack of sibling refereeing and the ability to dodge the “favourite child” accusations. Like all relationships, we are not without our own challenges. Recently, I witnessed a challenge of parenting an only child, which took me by surprise – the ability to navigate a team situation.

Until recently, independent sports have been the focus of my daughter’s activities. But this year, heavily influenced by a new school and new home, has opened the door for hockey as her first team sport. The excitement to finally be playing hockey was radical, including being dressed in her gear over an hour before we have to leave for the arena, and creating her own little rituals of wearing her hockey under-clothes to school. (I feel like this will be much more radical once the sweet aroma of hockey equipment wins the laundry battle.) 

However her actions weren’t translating to the same excitement on the ice. After observing this lack of gumption for several weeks, it was suggested from another parent of an only child that perhaps she doesn’t understand her role as a team member. 

Aha! There it was in a nutshell. After having a conversation with my daughter about what message she was unconsciously sending to her team when she wasn’t trying her hardest on the ice, how it affects the team dynamic and that she is ultimately sabotaging herself and her relationships with her team mates, it all fell into place for her. 

Never before had I witnessed such a significant deficit she had being an only child. Children with siblings have a social advantage, as they first learn the dynamics of orientating through arguments, sharing and collaborating with their siblings. Similarly it emphasized that there is no “i” in team, and I as a parent, also need a team for support.

Janet Smith is a proud single-mom of one daughter and a marketing professional who is grateful for her rural roots in the London area. She is a big believer in connecting with people through laughter and honesty.


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