I’d like to talk to you about something that I have been experiencing with my children and really thinking about the perspective of which we teach, coach and parent our children. Our week has full of honors, my oldest daughter Savannah who is in the first year of middle school came home this week with their first-quarter grades and she’s on the Honor Roll. I can’t even begin to express how proud of her I am as the Honor Roll was an achievement I never received. Not because I couldn’t but because I chose from an early age the school was not important, it was boring and I simply did not care about it at all. Looking back I can see that a lot of this had to do with the fact that my mom did not care whether I passed or failed so therefore it became unimportant to me. On the way to the bus stop Savannah asked me if I had ever made the honor roll Then she started to laugh remembering how much a dreaded school as a young person. There was an internal tug in my gut wondering if I had done the right thing by sharing with my child my failures in school as a child and really my lack of desire to participate. It was a fleeting moment as I know how important it is to be truthful and honest to our children and to share with them not only our successes and our celebrations but also our failures and regrets. I’ve never been one to let failure or regrets hold me back or my lack of enthusiasm for school.
It’s difficult parenting and finding the right words and tools to teach children about the importance of school and what I have found more importantly the life skills that you can teach them while they’re in school. For example I’ve always worried about what I’ve done in my past and how it will impact my children as they continue to grow and become more aware of who they are and as they spread their wings to fly in their own independence that they will throw back in my face what a hypocrite I am for not wanting them to make the same mistakes that I’ve made. But then thinking about it I’m pretty sure our parents have experienced the very same thing. My honor roll child is very smart. She loves school even though she knows I never liked it. She hasn’t taken my experience and made it her, she’s clearly taking her experience and owning it. As the parent of a middle school child, as many of you know, it’s a very scary thing to think about how fast our children are growing up these days physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our kids have come into this world all knowing with an incredible capacity to live their independent lives regardless of who their parents are or what their parents do.
Right now we are sitting in the hotel room Savannah and I, while the youngest in our family Jensen, is fully engaged in her seven-hour rehearsal for honors chorus. Jensen was born early is very small in her forth grade body and ginormous in her spirit and electric voice. Honors chorus was a really big deal. As Jensen has come into this world is a very talented and delightful singer. At three years old Jensen told a very good friend of mine when asked what she wanted to be when she was grown-up she simply looked at my friends who I might add is a professional platinum recording artists and says “why a singer of course just like I am now.” We all laughed at that tiny little three-year-old thinking, rights she already knows what she wants to be when she grows up. But here we are six years later and my little professional singer at the age of nine was selected out of over 400 kids who tried out to participate in the elementary school honors chorus. She is one of only 75 kids in the entire state. I’m giggling to myself as I’m writing this article thinking what a boastful mother I am and how I always roll my eyes at the bumper stickers on the back of the minivans that I often see “my child is an honor student at such and such school.” Now I’m not going to go that far and post all of my children’s honors all over my car but I will post it all over the Internet.:)
Besides being a proud mother, these story are leading to something I have been experiencing more lately in my coaching practice. I am currently coaching the young man who’s in college playing football on a scholarship. He’s one of the star players and frequently gets MVP. He was a straight A student in high school and now that he’s in college he’s failing. His parents asked me to work with him and so I’ve been coaching him for the last four months. And what’s been discovered with coaching is the star athlete who has the potential to become a pro athlete despises football. You may ask yourself how something like this happened and how does he get so far and become so good at something he can’t stand and the answer is very simple, his father was a star player he also played pro ball in his first year of playing professional football for the NFL he had an injury and was no longer able to play football. He is very successful at the business he does now however the failures and fallen dreams of this once star athlete are now being lived out vicariously through his son. It’s difficult as a parent to have a child who excels so well at something and happens to be the same thing that you also in your youth excelled at and were not able to fulfill that dream in your adult life. This particular young man has been failing in school not because he does not know how to do the work he is failing because he does not want to play football, he is in college on a full ride, and he does not want to fail his father. His father is the guy who pushes him to the end. They lack the communication techniques to be open and honest with each other. This young man is doing everything he can to get kicked off the football team so he does not have to quit. This young man has been playing football since he was 3 years old.
Often times well-intentioned parents have no idea the effect they’re having on their children by pushing and prodding them along in what truly is their dream. As parents we think when our children excel at something that is what they should focus on and that is what they should do. We’ve all seen them the Little League parents sitting on the sideline yelling at their kids to do more, to put on a happy face, to be better to get in there to take down the other children. We seen the fathers who continue to coach and put their children in all the lead positions forcing them to play the sport that they so loved when they were young. We see the moms on the sidelines bringing the snacks and encouraging their children who often times seems so miserable to play harder and play smarter. Sometimes these are just small children in the early stages of elementary school at the phase of life where children really want to do everything they can to please their parents. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against Little League and understand fully the professional athletes have to start somewhere but let’s not all of us forget that it is a very small percentage of people that become professional athletes. Little League and sports and really any extracurricular activity that your stroke child participates in are for them, for their fun, fulfilling their desires, and meeting their needs.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how as parents we want our children to achieve the things that we never achieved when we were young. We want our children to excel in the things that speak to our hearts and our souls. We want our children to excel in the things that also speak to our egos. We forget that they have their own minds their own egos their own souls and their own desires. As parents we often times take advantage of the fact that children ultimately want to please their parents so we push and prod them along and doing things that they don’t always desire to do.
There is also the other side which I must admit I’ve experienced, which is my children participating in things that I don’t like at all things that I know their father loves and I can see them doing things to please him. They are not good athletes so it is hard for me to watch them struggle with sports to please their dad. I have also stepped back and realized that they do like playing some sports it is not all for their dad and that my old feeling from my marriage can cloud my vision with regards to the things my girls do that their dad loves. Having this awareness allows me to focus on what it truly is that my children desire and not what either their father or I desire for them or what we did not get to do from our childhood.
So as my children are processing through honors chorus and being on the honor roll I’ve also watched them struggle and things that they’re not so good at yet they attempt them anyways. As a parent, it’s is tempting to try to convince our children to do what we like and want instead of focusing on what they love and desire. It’s temping as divorced parents to push the things that you like and pull from the things the other parent likes. I am also a singer and love the arts my children’s father is Mr. Sports. My children are naturally gifted in the arts and music and not so much in the sports arena. There was a time I fought all sporting activates because of my own personal feelings. Now we strive for a healthy balance and let our children decide on the to extra curricular activities a year. Its not easy co-parenting, its not easy sharing time and passions, it is however one of most honoring gifts you can give to your children.
It is so vital to remember that we must HONOR our children as fellow human beings. We must hold sacred their innate desire to please us and to be sure that they are participating in the activities they truly love and desire not what we want for us through them.
In love, light and service,