Friday, March 14, 2014

10:26 PM
Hard Won Smiles
As a parent it is often hard to know when to push and when to let it go.

As motivated people and engaged parents, we are naturally driven to want to empower our kids and give them every opportunity (especially the ones that we never had the opportunity to pursue during our own childhoods, or alternatively the ones we loved).

But we are also hyper-sensitive to the downsides of having an over-committed child and so want to be open and flexible and follow their lead about what and how much to do.

But then the dilemma is this:
  • How can we expect our kids to ask about things that they have no way of knowing exist or what they really are?
  • How can we get them to push outside their comfort zone a little to build those incredibly important life-skills such as teamwork and grit and self-confidence and picking yourself up when you get knocked down and not always being the best?
  • How do we fill the long afternoon hours of an antiquated school day that (for my daughter) ends at 11:40 AM?
What I have basically come to over the last year as the extra-curricular activities have stacked up for my daughter, some additive, some replacement, is that my role is to expose my child to things (ballet, swimming, hip-hop, soccer, piano, rock climbing, art, legos) and give her the opportunity to pursue them, if she so chooses. Because of the nature of her personality (slow to warm, incredibly enthusiastic thereafter), I have also found myself in the uncomfortable role of having to push her a little to give things a solid try (I wrote about our experience with soccer and biking last fall). I have been firm that she doesn't have do something forever if she doesn't like it - stopping is OK, but quitting is not (i.e., you finish out a session if you started it, but you don't have to sign up for the next one). The tears have been few, but memorable, and I have no regrets that we pushed through them. For starters, I now have a great running/biking and climbing partner. As I have watched her learn and grow in her self-confidence and begin to "own" things over the course of this year, I am pretty certain that she also has no regrets.

I have chronicled an example of that sometimes painful, but ultimately no regrets action below:

Day one of after-school rock climbing class: Nervous, scared and not willing to climb more than 10 feet off the ground
Day Two: Hysterical crying for 30 minutes - inconsolable in response to nanny and gym staff efforts, finally calmed down when I arrived and got the courage to try again
Day Three: Wearing her climbing shoes for the first time
Day four: "I love rock climbing"
Day Five: Made it to the top of the wall
Day Six: Journal entries about how much she loves climbing
Day Seven: Climbed a 5.6
Day Nine: Climbing makes it onto her list of 100 favorite things
Day Ten: A picture of her bouldering becomes the icon of her "stick-to-it" learning unit at school
Day Twelve: "Mommy you signed me up for the next session right?"
Day Eighteen: Climbed a 5.9
Day Nineteen: The smile on her face after working on a boulder problem with me today, see the video below:

IMG 2938 from MommyTasker on Vimeo.

Being a parent is a balancing act - that is for sure. It hardly ever feels like you get it right for more than a couple of days or tries in a row. You just gotta live for those moments big and (mostly) small that keep you feeling like you are at least heading (mostly) in the right direction, even if it has meant a gentle nudge here and there or a firm stance on "doing your best".

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