Their Own Boat

This is my oldest. He wakes up by his alarm clock every morning, gets dressed, brushes his teeth, comes in to my bedroom to give me a kiss, and then heads outside for his morning work out. If you ever feel like a loser as a parent, just think of how I feel in my bed, tucked under the covers, while my 4th grader goes out for a workout at 7:00 AM. Some days, if it’s raining, he asks me to go and work out so that he can shoot in the gym while I workout (read: take a steam). The work ethic he has has only been inside of my body, to his degree, I think, when he was inside of my body as a fetus.

The point of this, though, is that he hardly liked sports a year ago. He liked everything a little, but nothing that much. My husband and I just thought he wasn’t sporty, which was fine by us, but then we remembered back to when we were younger. Both of us played sports into high school and we realized — we hadn’t even touched a ball in some of the things we went on to be good at at the ages our kids are now. Everything starts younger so you, as a parent, can feel like you’re missing it all if you don’t sign your kids up for a league when they’re 7. I’m just offering an opinion that is this: If they don’t care, you shouldn’t care. There are lots of ways and times to become good at something. I think we’d do well to let them be, to let them come into their own on their own time, at their own capacity, when they’re ready, and to save our money instead of spending it on every sport activity for them. I know, I know — we’re worried that if we wait, then everyone will be better than them if they decide to come in later. And I’ll admit, everyone was better than him when he started last year. But that’s not true now. Because kids change and grow in all sorts of unimaginable ways that we can’t fathom until they’re doing it. Would he have worked as hard if he’d been forced? I don’t think so. That’s never how it works.

He doesn’t come inside until he’s done his whole workout: lay-ups, shots from around the made-up key he has in his head, which must be swooshed for them to count, and then 5 made-free-throws in a row. I watch out the window sometimes because everything our kids - especially our firsts - do is amazing. It’s so pathetic and absolutely essential for us to be somewhat enamored by them.

If you’re worried that they’re missing the boat on something that they don’t care about, maybe consider that that’s not their boat for now. I know that it feels like we have to push them in everything they try at ever-younger ages; it feels like that’s what the world wants of us and of them. Maybe, take a pass. Our job, sometimes, is to sit with them and let them wait for their boat. Who knows when it might come? Who knows what it might look like? I have one kid who thinks his boat is saying bad words, making jokes, and ding-dong ditching so I’m not saying they don’t need a little direction every now and again. I’m just saying that sometimes we, too, need it from them. We need to know when to back off and trust them. They might surprise you. I’m surprised every single morning when I look out my bathroom window.

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Anne FlavinComment