“You don’t want to be last,” I admonished a lacrosse player who seemingly was not putting forth his best effort. “You can always tell when a coach’s son is on the team,” another coach chimed in.
Parenting lessons learned on the playing field.
It’s true. The player I was “encouraging” was my 9-year-old son Na’im. He was bringing up the rear in a sprint drill. My blood was slowly starting to boil. How could my son, who days earlier was awarded a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, be one of the slowest kids on the team this particular day. I heard a voice in my head say, “He should be one of the fastest kids out here.”
Truth be told, the situation said more about me than it did him. What was it that got my blood boiling? If I’m honest with myself, it made me feel like a failure as a parent. It made me view Na’im as a possible failure. I had that sinking feeling that my son’s life might not “turn out right” if he doesn’t give his best effort – always – every time – perfectly.
Before my wife and I had a child, I used to cringe when I heard the over the top football dads or soccer moms being out of control. Now I understand. It’s not about living vicariously through your kids, although sometimes that happens. It is the weight of unrealistic expectations of perfection. Parents have a picture of ideal children and parents. When those expectations are not met, and they rarely are, there is upset and frustration.
I’m like all most parents. My kid is smart, gifted, witty, athletic, strong, compliant, coachable, fast and the list is endless. I want to help him maximize all of those attributes. I think if my son listens to me (and all of my wisdom), he will have nothing less than success. When he doesn’t listen, it’s like casting pearls before swine.
This is the age of helicopter parents. Can you imagine the stress our kids feel? It’s non-stop correction. It’s no wonder that most young people quit participating in organized sports by the age of 13. Young people have the challenge of being perfect. It’s the challenge of living up to the huge expectations of their parents.
When I was a kid, we organized our own games without a parent in sight. We found the baseball gloves. We picked teams equitably. We settled our differences. There was no one there reminding me to hold my elbow up while at the plate. There was no one to exhort me to run faster. There was no one shouting incessant instructions.
Wayne B. Moss is BGCA's senior director of Sports, Fitness and Recreation.
There’s no wonder that skateboarding and other extreme sports are gaining popularity. Where else can a young person make a mistake and get acknowledged? After trying a double half-pike and wiping out, coming close to losing a few teeth and some broken bones, the response from an on looking friend is likely to be – “Dude, that was wicked!!!”
Parents, give your kids – and yourself – a break. As best I can tell, we turned out okay without helicopter parents.