I swore when I had kids, I wouldn’t push them into any sports or activities. I wanted them to follow their hearts and discover their passions on their own.
Eight years into parenting, I’m realizing my approach, though well-intentioned, was a little off, at least concerning certain children of mine. My oldest, for example, is like a little birdie who would never learn to fly if it wasn’t for a gentle (or sometimes harder) push from mama. As a result of his hesitancy, we’ve decided on a few non-negotiables in our family. The first is piano, which the kids will learn through middle school. We will consider allowing them to pursue another musical instrument later on, but for now piano is a must. No negotiation. Am I a Tiger Mom for doing so? Maybe. But I want my kids to learn to handle requirements and responsibilities within our family unit. They have a really good life–food, shelter, no worries. I don’t mind throwing a little hardship in the way! And this is piano we’re talking about, for crying out loud!
The second requirement for my kids is that they learn to swim and complete at least one summer season on a competitive swim team. That might sound harsh, especially if a child is non-competitive and dislikes the sport. My logic, though, is that swim team will encourage my children to become truly proficient in the water, which will ensure greater safety later on. It’s a form of quality control and with five children, I need any help I can get to make sure than everyone is up to par on swimming and safe around water. They will thank me someday when they’re on a boat and not fearing for their lives. They will also learn handling anxiety before races, being part of team unit, and the discipline of practice. It’s so win-win, it’s not even funny!
This summer is the first time we’ve put part B in action and believe it or not, we are reaping the benefits. M, my oldest, has truly taken to the water and has improved his swimming technique tenfold. Not to mention, he is loving being on the team. He races into practice, gets excited before the meets, and comes out of the water all smiles all the time (unless he’s lost his goggles!). Here is an example of a child who would have never tried swim team until mama pushed. I’m so glad I did. And you can bet I will continue to do so!
The same may not ring true, however, for other children of ours. I can already tell which ones are up for adventure and are willing to try anything. In their cases, we’ll probably have to take the opposite approach (the one my parents had to take with me) and actually hold them back from trying everything. Such was the case with our second oldest this past year. He wanted to try three different things one season and we all paid the price. He was exhausted and learned a valuable lesson about choosing involvement carefully.
There is never a clear path raising kids. Each child is his own entity and there is never a one-size-fits-all strategy parents can employ. Every day I am learning to throw my expectations out the window, that no two children are the same, and that holding back is important, but that a little push can never hurt. How else am I going to get all my birdies out of the nest?
Keep the faith and God bless on this marathon journey of parenting.