Well it looks like its time for all of those activities to get going again with the end of summer vacation rapidly approaching.
My kids have been active in numerous activities and sports over the past 17 years. The level of competition that has grown is tremendous. Everyone jockeying to be the BEST this or the BEST that. But where does the push come from?
I have always told my kids not to measure themselves against others. It doesn't work. Someone will always be better. Who wants to live in a constant state of disappointment and struggle clamoring to catch up all the time? I just always wanted my children to know I was proud of whatever they did, as long as they were happy with what they were accomplishing.
Each of my children have individual talents. They are not special in this. Each person on this planet has their own individual gifts. I believe God gives them to us to share with the world. But they are their own talents to possess and decide what they will or will not do with them.
Son #2 is a plethora of capability. Athletically. Musically. Intellectually. The test scores come back proving his academic capability but his grades don't reflect it. His athleticism is impressive and we watch him win wrestling matches barely exerting himself in training or conditioning. He has an amazing ear for music and plays guitar and piano but is not interested in practicing or higher aspirations.
Sometimes I am frustrated by his lack of motivation because I know that with a little application he could excel in any of those things. But that is not how I parent. I do not force practice time or personal training or tutoring. It would be a waste of my energy.
It isn't because I don't want all of those things for my son.
It is because my forcing him to do more won't make the difference that his own innate drive would.
Should he desire to better himself in any of those arenas there is no telling what he could accomplish. But it has to come from within. Not from me arranging special lessons, coaches or teachers.
If I had a nickel for each time I have said, "Boy, if he ever decided to do something with that. He would be a force to reckon with."
But he doesn't.
Because he isn't interested in putting forth the extra something that it would take.
And you know what?
Because it is his decision to make.
I'm still proud of him. It doesn't make him any less talented or loved.
I watch the other boys that he has grown in sports with through the years. Those kids work out like mad men. Running. Lifting. Year round preparation for one season sport. They are tenacious.
I could choose to point that out to him. To compare him to the others. To acknowledge who might be surpassing him in strength or work ethic.
He will figure it out soon enough. When he has to go up against them.
Then he can decide.
"Do I want to work harder?"
"Am I happy where I am?"
If he were to come to me and tell me that he wanted to raise his game - that is different. Then I would find the means to help him.
But I've learned that the aspiration has to come from within them. Not at my suggestion. Or control.
When Son #3 was about 3 years old, he would go out into the driveway with a basketball and shoot baskets for HOURS! This was a normal regulation basketball pole. Not some Little Tykes situation. It might take him 2 hours to make one basket, but then that one basket kept him going for another two hours with the hope that there would be another basket.
That was his own determination. Something he was driven to accomplish. It mattered to HIM. Certainly not to me.
Son #3 is a huge sports fanatic. While he is extremely coachable and naturally possess athleticism - more than anything he appreciates the work that the greatest athletes put into their game. I don't just mean big celebrities either. On his regular community teams he recognizes those talented individuals who work hard to up the ante. He acknowledges those that run much faster than him. He respects them. He is not jealous. He is not competitive with them. He knows his limitations and chooses to be happy in his own skin where he stands. But more importantly, he gives the talented their due. He never tries to downplay their abilities with excuses. He appreciates them.
Over the course of the years I have heard it all. The parents chiding their children. Yelling. Comparing. Whispering. Putting down the other kid. Complaining about injustices.
Kids don't feel that way.
Kids are just kids.
They like each other for who is kind and dislike each other for who is unkind.
They do not measure themselves against another individual's talent unless it has been pointed out to them. Your child does not want to disappoint you. Continue to compare your child to another and they will feel that you are disappointed in them.
Most kids are drawn to their own interests. And their own drive and determination will affect their own outcome. Most of the time they are content with what they are doing without your push.
If they want more - to be better - then they will work harder.
Don't underestimate your child in thinking that you have to be the driving force behind them to make them "good" at something.
Son #1 is his own man. Marches to a different drum. But make no mistake he is a born leader. We have called him the "idea man" since he was just a toddler. We laugh over stories of his ideas and the things he has come up with repeatedly.
He also played sports through the years. He enjoyed the comradery of the team more than the actual sport or competition. Being the best one on the team meant nothing to him. He just liked being included and making friends. He has nice childhood memories of playing ball.
He has a brilliant mind and is a ridiculous scope of knowledge. He is an avid reader and devours hundreds and hundreds of books annually. I never sat him down and forced him to read and I never took him outside and forced him to throw a ball back and forth. He has always had his own ideas. To build. To invent. To make something in his imagination come to life with his own hands. I believe that one day those ideas will pay off ten fold not because I believe in him - but because he believes in himself. It is his talent to do with it what he will.
My daughter is a dancer. Everyone likes to think that it is because I was a dancer and she was my only girl. Whatever. I can tell you that isn't it. Everyone wants to assume that I have somehow pushed her down this road. Whatever. Everyone can think what they'd like.
Long ago I saw talent in her. As a ballet instructor, I knew exactly what I was looking at. But I always made sure to look at her through Mommy Eyes first.
She leads the way. I never tell her to practice. NEVER! I never tell her to do anything other than clean her room and do her chores.
She is driven, serious and determined. She doesn't compare herself to anyone other than herself. She wants to improve her own ability and works specifically to do that.
For 4 years I have listened to, "Mom watch this." "Mom, is this better?" "Mom, I've been working on..."
If you ask her she'll tell you my reaction -
"No, I can't watch one more minute. You are driving me crazy."
I've walked away from her dancing more times than I have sat still to watch it.
She sits at the computer and dissects the professional ballerinas in their variations on video for hours. Figuring it all out.
Because that is what she wants to do.
SHE wants it.
I couldn't MAKE that happen.
It isn't my dream.
This new television show "Dance Moms" is out now.
It makes me sick to my stomach.
But it is just indicative of our recent culture.
The way our kids are pushed.
Parents put all of their time and energy into their kids' activities.
I think there is a confusion with putting time into your children and putting time into their activities.
Growing up my parents signed me up, bought me what I needed, dropped me off, left, came back and picked me up when I was finished.
It was my activity. Not theirs.
They went home and tended to my brother - their home - made dinner - cut the grass - whatever else they needed to do to live their own lives.
Whatever I accomplished was mine to do or mine to fail.
And honestly, my accomplishments or failures did not impact them.
Because they were mine.
My parents had full lives without having to be vested in all that my brother and I did.
Because of that, when I got home - my favorite dinner was on the table, sometimes followed by a fresh baked dessert. My parents weren't rushed in the evenings - we sat and watched a television show or two together. With time to talk about our day. Relax and decompress. That meant more to me than anything. The home environment they created played a huge role in my happiness.
But take a look around now at the parents that crowd the fields during practice. Stand in the windows of gymnastic gyms and dance studios.
Watching the other children. Taking notes of who is better. Or who isn't cutting it. Who belongs where. Adults talking to each other out of the sides of their mouths. Judging. Then discussing it with their kids.
Calling coaches and teachers. Requesting their child be moved to another team. Pushing for select levels. Pushing for travel teams. Pushing to keep their kids up with those that are excelling because of talent and their own determination.
Funny - my parents never needed to tell me who was better than me at anything. They also never needed to change that fact either. I don't think they even cared.
Honestly, in the grand scheme it just wasn't that important.
They were worried about their own corner of the world and let me take care of mine.
What if everyone just decided to take care of their own corner of the world? I think we would be surprised the changes that would abound.
Everyone is driven to do well at something. But no one is driven to do well at everything.
There was a time that recreational teams were meant for just that - recreation.
It wasn't a reflection upon anyone's ability.
It was just for fun.
Those that were driven to excel rose to the top naturally.
And those that weren't driven had someone to look up to and admire.
Funny thing about kids -
Sometimes they just don't take things all that seriously.
It is the beauty of being a kid.
Maybe we should just let them be.
I'm pretty sure our own corner of the world could use some attention instead.