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About Red Cards

If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”
-Abigail Van Buren

What makes a good parent?

I asked myself that question for the first time when I was twelve years old. I was travelling with the football team for an international club competition in Sweden, which gathered more than 1,000 teams from all around the world. I still remember it as one of the greatest moments of my life as a football player, especially since my father travelled with us. However, the main reason behind that assessment is the lesson I learned the hard way back then.

After having qualified to the knockout phase of the tournament as group winners, we were scheduled to play against the city’s local team in the round of 32. As a defender I was charged with man-marking their main attacker whom we found out caused defence trouble in the previous games. For non-football experts, it is important that tension be always high between an attacker and a defender during a football game, and this game was no exception. Every time the ball was near us, physical contacts would erupt, like two wolves fighting over a piece of meat.

Midway into the second half, the attacker decided to stamp on my foot with his cleats and shoved his elbow into my belly. I remember falling to the ground in pain, but the referee did not pause the game as he was focusing on what was taking place on the other side of the field. Those sneaky hits kept on happening for five minutes whenever the referee had his back to us. The coach, on the other hand, was witnessing it all and decided to sub me off in order for me to calm down and then get back on the field. As I walked towards the bench, the attacker said something that finally got the best of me. The next thing I know, I am showing him a not very pleasant finger. The referee saw it this time and showed a straight red card, meaning I was no longer allowed to participate in this game. I then received a two-game suspension which meant that my last game in the tournament had just ended for me, as we got eliminated in the quarter finals.

Two years later, the exact same scenario took place during a Lebanese league game. I came up against a tough opponent who finally got the better of me too. No surprise that the outcome was also the same. To make a long story short, I was sent off that day and had to serve a two-game suspension as well. The only difference this time was that my mother had come to see me play.

Getting sent off in a football game is one of the most heartbreaking feelings in the game I love since you feel that you have let your team down. However, nothing compares to getting sent off while your father or mother is watching from the stands. Those were the two times I felt most ashamed of myself. And yet, I am thankful that those events took place early in my life.

I am thankful that they took place because of the way my parents reacted when I came to them after the end of each game. Those are some of the rare times I cried because of football. At both times, I pulled up my hoodie and covered my head in shame as I could not look my parents in the eye after what they had just witnessed on the field. I can say that they had the exact same attitude on those two separate occasions: they hugged me tight and told me that it was okay to be angry and sad about what just happened. This was not the end of the story.

Once we got in the car and away from other people, each of my parents gave me the exact same lecture: “You had no right to react in that way in the game”. I was shocked to hear that. I started saying that it was unfair that I got sent off when the other player started the fight and was playing dirty all the time. Their response was simple: “Life is unfair. The world is full of dirty people who will do anything to bring you down. The difference is that they do it in a way that they cannot get caught. Throughout all your interactions, you were taking the blows in and he was at fault, but the tables turned the moment you replied. When you are angry, your emotions cloud your judgement and make you lose everything you worked so hard to get. In my opinion, you deserved to get sent off for what you did”.

Those stories were an eye-opener for me. It showed me that my parents had my back no matter what and that they truly care about me. Instead of comforting and saying that it was not my fault by blaming the referee or the other player, they held me accountable for my own actions.

“Instead of raising children who turn out okay despite their childhood, let’s raise children who turn out extraordinary because of their childhood.”
– I.R. Knost

I was privileged enough – and still am until today – that both my parents are active in my life. They taught me so many things which made me the man I am today. I am still learning today, but they surely have set me on the right path more than once.

What makes a good parent?

Today, I can answer that question. A good parent is someone who will support me no matter what happens. They might even spoil me from time to time, as their direct way of telling me how much they care about me. However, this does not mean that they will agree with everything I say or do. They show their truest and purest form of love when they tell me that I did something wrong, when they are honest with me, when they make me take responsibility for those things. When my parents get harsh with me, although in the moment it is very unpleasant, I know that they truly care about me and the type of person I am becoming. If they did not care about me or the things I do, they would not be upset. It is that simple. A good parent is someone who wants what is best for you, even if it means sometimes telling you what you need to hear instead of what you want to hear. Make no mistake, you still get to fool around and have fun with them. After all, it takes both rain and sunshine to create a rainbow.

So no, my parents are not good parents.
They are amazing world-class parents. They are warriors.
They are my Saving Grace.
Thanks to them, I can chase the Monsters away now.

Why should parents care about any of this?
Because they know that one day, they will no longer be there to set you on the right path. You will be on your own.
Is that going to be a good thing or a bad thing?

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