Mom being asked by son not to come watch his sporting events

My teenage son has asked me not to come watch his sporting (varsity) events. He's not asking me not to volunteer (for snacks, parent duties, driving) but literally not to come sit in the stands and watch silently (no, I'm not one of those moms who screams and yells). When I asked him why he said it made him feel like a little kid with him mommy there and didn't want me involved in any way. When I told him I would be the only parent on the team not there, he said he didn't care. When I told him how painful it was to be asked to do this and how much it hurt me, he didn't really care and again asked for me to respect his wishes. I have three kids and despite being a working mom, have been supportive of all their activities over the years volunteering for some, watching most, driving them to all practice/rehearsals paying for needed supplies, etc. I understand his desire for independence but this just feels really harsh to me.

Obviously I'm having a very hard time with this and its compounded by the fact that my husband thinks we should respect his wishes (he rarely went anyway.) I asked if his wishes included sleeping in a tent in the park or only eating candy and ice cream should we respect his wishes, but that didn't go well.

Looking for a reality check (reasonable request for a teen to not to want mom to sit in stands ever?) or advice how to be ok with his request since clearly I am not. Thanks.

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Reasonable.  He's old enough to decide.  He's also discussed the reason why with you.  You've told him you feel hurt.  You want different things, but I think he should get to decide this one.

I do think it’s his to decide. I think if it were me, I’d say, “I’m super bummed to miss seeing you play, but I totally respect your wishes, and if there’s something I specifically have done or said in the past around your games or anything else that contributes to your not wanting me there, I really hope you’ll tell me, even if telling me is hard, so I can apologize to you, and fix it.” And—just saying that isn’t enough, you really have to mean it.  

I suspect pushing back on this is just going to further alienate him, in a sort of pursuit/withdrawal cycle between you. 

Sorry it’s happening, it sounds really painful, and I wish you the best of luck.

I'm only responding because I was reminded of something when I was a teenager, but I am not a mom of teenagers (yet). Piano was my thing, and I never wanted my mom to listen to my performances during a competition (my dad could care less, so he often just waited in the car or walked around the campus). I felt like her presence made me more nervous, and I would ask her to please not even try to peep into the hall. My mom was not a pianist, not a stage mom, only always supportive. I know this is not at all what you say is your son's reasoning but just wanted to let you know that parents add pressure that they don't even realize (my mom would not have known if I made mistakes!). I suppose something about my mom also reminded me about my own vulnerabilities, something that I didn't need to be reminded of while I was on stage. So please give yourself kudos for being supportive and try not to take it personally if your teen is being adamant about something like this - whatever in his head is not because you have done anything wrong, but maybe it is because he needs to stay in the zone... Maybe someone can help record parts of the game and give it to you to watch after-the-fact, or maybe see if he'll let your husband watch.

First, big hugs. I feel for you, mama! I don't have a teen but I once was one. :) I wonder what would happen if you put your feelings aside for the moment (having already expressed them) and respected his wishes, letting him know you would be happy to return if he changed his mind (and not hold it over his head or be too bitter to concede). Best case scenario: you might just win his trust and respect by respecting his feelings (which we can hopefully agree are totally valid regardless of how they impact yours), and he comes around eventually. If you insist on coming by dismissing his feelings and making YOUR feelings more important than his, I fear you'll drive a wedge and create resentment. Besides, could you really sit there and enjoy being there knowing he's glowering at you from the field/court/whatever and wishing you weren't there? I think trying to play it cool and giving him a little time will work in your favor, not playing the victim and guilting him with the "but you're making mommy feel so sad!" card. If you really are going to be the only parent not there, there's a good chance he might realize that a couple games in and hopefully renege. Give him a chance to miss you. ;) But if that doesn't happen, I'd be curious what other dynamic is at play in your relationship that your presence is so triggering. Perhaps it's fear, or shame, or perfectionism. Does he feel safe to fail in front of you? Ultimately, what do you want him to remember about how you handled his feelings and this "phase" (as I'm sure it will be one) in 5, 10, or 20 years? This is a great opportunity to model empathy and that respect belongs to both the child and the parent. Best of luck. 

When my son was in 11th and 12th grades and a varsity golf player, he made the same request of me. Granted, watching golf at various golf courses is different than sitting in the stands, but I would have liked to attend at least one game to see him in action. I was a bit hurt, but I also saw it for what it was -- he wanted to be independent, and not be reminded of his mom while he was playing. If your relationship outside of his games is a relatively good one (and I know there is a real spectrum for that in the teen years), I would try not to take it so personally. Kids of this age really need to have autonomy where they can. Another thing: you told him how you felt, and "he didn't really care." He's told you how he feels, and you also seem not to care, or at least to want to continue to argue with him about it. Please let him have his sporting time to himself. It's important to him for reasons he may not even be able to articulate. (And, as always, HANG IN THERE!! It will be alright!). :-)

Many years ago, I was in the same position you are - my son asked me not to attend his football games.  It was a surprise to me at the time, especially because we had been out buying all his football equipment, and like you, I was the only parent asked not to attend. and my feelings were hurt.  But, I honored his request and chalked it up to performance anxiety on his part.  Looking at it from his point of view, he felt more secure not worrying about my reactions while he played.  Toward the end of the season and after he'd played many games, I asked if he would be comfortable having me attend at least one game.  He agreed and I went.  You have my sympathies on this awkward situation, but in the long run, it builds a stronger relationship with your son for having acknowledged his request.  Good luck.  (And this stage will soon pass also). 

TL/DR: I recommend telling him how you feel and then dropping it and respecting his wishes. 

Wow, this brought up a major flashback to me when I ran track in high school and my dad insisted on coming to a meet after I asked (told really) him not to.  He came anyway and it enraged me.  From what I remember, it was about control; being able to control my life.   It also irritated me that he cared, running was my thing and I didn't want to share that part of my life with my parents once I was in high school.  Both my parents went to all my meetings in junior high and I appreciated them being there but I felt very different once I got to high school. 

Now that I'm a teen parent and was recently told not to attend one of my daughters swim meets; I totally feel for you but you (like me) can privately feel bad and still respect his wishes.  Like other people said, I think it is important to let him know you would like to go, but being told not to attend is not going to affect your relationship.  Or cause you to say something snarky if he needs you to be there for some reason in the future. 

Respect your son's wishes.  My daughter made the same request for a couple.  In the sort term it was hurtful,  After a couple of years years her confidence grew she started asking us to come to her events. 

Just wanted to add a perspective from two different eras of youth sports and parental involvement. Our oldest son played soccer and other sports in the mid-70s at Berkeley High. The parents rarely, if ever, went to the games because the students went on school buses to their games all over the greater Bay Area. We parents were mostly at work during game times and parents generally did not come to the games. Our son filled us in at dinnertime and seemed content.  Fast forward to the mid-90s -- our youngest son played soccer and basketball from early elementary school through college. Parents definitely came to as many games as possible and provided transportation, snack rotations, assistance with coaching (sometimes in the earlier years), etc., etc. We really enjoyed watching the games, getting to know the parents, and participating. Our youngest took all this in stride but I think he would have been happier with an occasional parental appearance rather than constant oversight. Hope this helps in some small way.

Both of my kids have said to me “you don’t have to come to my games.” This surprised (and hurt) me as, like you, I don’t yell and scream so, other than being mom, I think I don’t do anything to embarrass them. My comment to both my kids was that I enjoy watching and supporting them/their team. Also, I pointed out that some kids’ parents never go to games which I imagine might feel pretty crappy. I think they understood that this wasn’t said with the intention of inducing guilt.

One thing my husband and I realized about our older son was that he was very sensitive about how he played, how much he got to play, etc. If a game didn’t go as he hoped, he didn’t want to talk to us about it AT ALL. We learned not to even say “good game” afterwards.

As hard as I imagine it would be to do this, perhaps you could strike a deal where you only attend half the games. I feel for you and wish you a resolution that works for both you and your son. 

They really know how to hurt us, don't they? The request isn't reasonable, just like many things teenagers do or say. If you really want to see the events, you can still go. Maybe you don't want to see just him, but the whole team. It's not "his" team and event, it's the entire team's right? It depends how important this is to you compared to other issues you and your son don't see eye to eye. BTW, I've seen plenty of adult sports men and women with their parents in the audience. Maybe you and he could agree on a compromise? That you go once in a while, a lot less than before? If he wants to be treated as an adult then he needs to learn to compromise. He doesn't get to have everything his way without considering other people's needs. If either one of you is seeing a therapist, you could both go and have this issue negotiated. Again, something that mature adults do.

My son did his to me for a short time in high school. I attended his games anyway but stayed out of his sight. Luckily it was just a phase.please try not to take this personally as teens are notoriously unaware of the impact of their behavior on those around them. 

I had to respond, because I was this kid! In late middle school and especially high school I didn't want my parents to come to my soccer games, concerts or dance performances. I didn't tell them this directly, but I would avoid telling them about events until the day of, and when they'd ask I'd assure them parents "weren't really coming." I had great parents, and we were close. It had nothing to do with them. I enjoyed the feeling of independence.  It was a bit easier because it didn't hurt my parents' feelings. They had 4 kids, so it might have even been a relief. But it's also possible that it did bother them and they didn't let on. Either way, I think it worked for our relationship. It allowed me to still be close to them at home while being more independent out in the world. Now that I'm a parent, my younger child acts similarly, and it started at a much younger age. When he went to gymnastics at age 4, parents had to stay. He didn't want me there, because, he told me, he didn't like being watched. So I'd have to read a book or look at my phone while other parents were watching their kids. (I felt ridiculous, but I also understood - I don't really like being watched either.)  As soon as it was allowed, he asked me to drop him off at things. I sometimes felt like I was missing out, and also was kind of embarrassed in front of other parents, but it made sense to me, and I didn't take it personally. (I'm pretty sure whatever kind of mom he had, he'd feel the same.) Now he's in plays and he wants me to come. This is just to say, I'm sorry this hurts, and I am sure he's not trying to hurt you. Giving him a bit of space around this might actually make you feel closer to him.

Hi there, I feel for you.  And I'd like to respond as the mother of a two-sport high school athlete. It's a tough dilemma when you've been supportive all along ... and also challenging to figure out the best way to be supportive but not show up.

My daughter demanded that I not come to her varsity playoff games in high school (and she was a starter!).  She said she wanted to be in her own (mental) space for the big game.  I didn't go, but it was a torn decision and felt awful. 

The other side of the coin is that years later, in college, our daughter doesn't remember why we weren't there for the playoffs!  Just that we weren't there.

So it's a mixed bag and there is not a single right decision.

Feeling for you, definitely. 

A bit of reframing: I think it's really great he feels comfortable making such an "I" statement. You've got a great opportunity as a parent to respect his self-differentiation. All of our kids are different people. Your other kids didn't need to claim this. He does. Perhaps you can acknowledge your disappointment, agree to his wishes and request the opportunity to revisit & discuss in a couple of months. That way it's part of a larger conversation about being in relationship with one another and acknowledges that we and circumstances change. Here's what I try to remind myself as a parent of teens: they are not me. be curious. be open. don't over function. 

This sounds hard! From the outside, it seems like a false dichotomy: his wishes vs your wishes:

what is it that you “gain” from watching his games? I would guess a sense of connection to his interests, a much-deserved sense of pride and love for him. 
Are there alternative activities you could do with him to re-create those experiences? 
best of luck to you