Am I that parent? Am I pushing my kids towards things that I wish I had been successful at? Or worse—am I steering them towards areas I think they should be successful at, that they might not even love?
I always claimed I was going to be the kind of parent who allowed my kids to naturally do things based on their own gifts and talents, and not get caught up in trying to steer them towards the areas in life that I grew up enjoying.
Honestly, I don’t think I am that parent. I’m pretty laid back about things. I know what I liked and I do get pretty excited when my kids share some of the interests I have or had as a child, but I am just as excited to experience them “finding themselves.”
But as I sit and watch my children wherever they are, I do find myself thinking of my own childhood (so maybe I am that narcissistic parent).
The other day as I was sitting at a piano recital our children were a part of, I started to recall the many piano recitals I participated in as a kid…Mrs. Langley was an amazing piano teacher—someone I’ll never forget—and the recitals were held in a beautiful Anglican church in the small town of Bowmanville, Ontario. I was always the second last person to perform. Jason Rekker (just a bit better than me) was always the last…oh wait—it’s about the kids.
Last week, I was sitting in the bleachers of yet another ball game my son, Eliot, was playing in and I wondered if he really cared that I was sitting in the bleachers counting pitches for the scorekeeper. And then I remembered when I would play club soccer as a kid and I would look over and see my dad on the sidelines and truly appreciate the fact that he left his meetings early so he could say he never missed one of my soccer games that year. He did this even into my high school and college years…but wait—I’m supposed to be admiring the talents of my children and the wonderful choices that they have made—because it’s about my son.
Recently, at the stables, as I was admiring my daughter’s courage and self-confidence she was gaining from riding a horse, my thoughts began to drift back to my own childhood love of horses. I used to love to draw horses, read books with horses in them (I read every Black Stallion book ever written), and dream about one day being a professional jockey…wait a minute—give my head a shake—this is supposed to be about my daughter and her love of riding horses… it’s not about me, it’s about my daughter.
But if I’m not that parent—just someone who can’t seem to help reliving the past—why is the following dilemma so hard for me: my son Toby and I have been engaged in quite the discussion over the last few months. He’s become fairly accomplished in both soccer and hockey. This past winter and into the spring Toby was allowed to play both sports (don’t ever allow this, by the way, if you want to keep some level of sanity as a family). Soccer is the sport I grew up playing, and although Toby does enjoy soccer, his first love is hockey. Of course there are other factors at play here (like the massive costs of hockey, the opportunity for Toby to build friendships outside of school and church, and not to mention the brutality of hockey…yes I’m overdoing it). Do I insist on soccer for him or do I allow him to follow his first love?
If I’m definitely not that parent (just a little self-involved)…then why is this so hard?