Rule #84: There are always boulders
Every parent has this speech they give their kids which makes the parent feel wise and helpful. It goes something like this..
“If in life you follow your passions and use the gifts that God have given you, you will find happiness. If you work at something you love it won’t feel like work.”
Very wise and insightful, but unfortunately complete bullshit.
Every path we take is filled with obstacles, boulders that block our trip. There are not straight paths, and no paths that are without obstacles that need to be either climbed or walked around. We don’t teach or children the two most important truths about their future- life is hard and sooner or later our passions involve work. Kids struggle when it gets hard. Completely shocked that following their dreams did not result in the skipping down the yellow brick road to Emerald City experience they expected. They think where the hell did these witches and damn flying monkeys come from? We were having so much fun singing with the munchkins and now its all hard…let’s get off this road now!
I see it with kids all the time…. they love the Cello until they get sick of practicing, they love basketball until have run 2 miles everyday and get up every morning at 6 am, they love science until they fail their first bio exam. It all gets hard eventually and the kids will hate it.
The challenge is to know what to do when our kids start encountering the boulders in life. This is hard for the parent because they want their kids to be the best at everything.
I have found there is a 3 steps process to determining what to do.
Step 1: Healthy or Unhealthy
Not every boulder is place in our path because it is a challenge, sometimes it is a warning. I imagine that when little Walter White discovered his love of chemistry with the Jr chemistry set his parents did not realize that his path would lead to the meth labs, but I’m sure there were clear boulders that could have changed his path.
I see this a lot in football where concussions, ACL tears and broken bones are sending messages to kids that this sport may not healthy. Sometimes the wrong advice to kids is “rub some dirt on it and get back in”, sometimes the advice should be to consider a different path. I’ve down this myself when Collin broke his collar bone ( and I didn’t realize it) and I told him to stop being a baby and in there and play the game. – not one of my finer moments.
This is extremely hard for parents of the 99% of kids that have almost enough talent to be great at something and they encounter a physical obstacle to success. It isn’t just the kid’s dream that hits that limit, its the parents. It hard to know when the right advice is to choose a different path. But in sports sometime the healthy thing is to walk away. Sometimes the best advice is to go back to munchkin-land and find a different path. This is where parents need to be as honest with themselves as they are with their children.
Step 2: Teach hiking and rock climbing skills
When you kid comes and says they want to give us track because it isn’t fun anymore you are filled with two emotions…one of relief that you can finally sleep in on a Saturday and one of complete disappointment. As a parent you have invested thousands of hours and dollars in this passion and now they want to give it up because its not fun?? what the hell?
The response needs to be to determine if this is a real change in heart, or if is just them encountering an boulder. This requires we listen, and listen again, as parents to the whys. We have to determine if this is a real change in desire or if its just a boulder and things are getting hard.
We have to teach our kids techniques to get over boulders such as pacing and chunking activities. We have to teach our kids ways of hiking around boulders like giving up travel sports or adding a different activity to there lives. We need to show them the way around the problems, and that all the problems are small if they are put into their right perspective.
Step# 3: Do nothing
I learned his lesson from a friend and business partner, Mike Miles as we were contemplating options to take in dealing with a business problem. He said to me ..”remember we can do nothing and just let it determine its own outcome”. Being a type A personality this shocked me at first, but he was right sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing.
I’ve seen my kids make terrible decisions, but not one’s that were dangerous to them or harmful to others, just bad decisions. I’ve come to the conclusion the role of a parent is that of a lifeguard, sitting close, but not in the water and not blowing the whistle everytime a wave comes that look too big. Once you accept that just being in the water is a risk, the pressure starts to ease.
A kid quitting a sport or wanting to get a tattoo ( when they are 21- Collin please note the age) may be a terrible decision, but they will have to learn like Johnny did that “Winona Forever” in your 20’s can become “Wino Forever” in your 40’s. Bad decisions are part of the learning process, a parent’s role is not to avoid these bad decisions, but to assure they are survivable.
So how important is you son or daughter’s decision to quit football or cheerleading to their lives? Will they be doomed to mediocre relationships, dead-end jobs and lifelong weight issues? With the passage of time you will find how truly meaningless these actions were to their lives. Its not what they do, its how they do it and being involved with life is much more important than anything else.
Honestly the worse thing they have going for them is the genes we gave them. And I would like to publicly apologize for the complete lack of sports aptitude I forced my children to inherit. I’m sorry but it was pretty certain that the NFL or NBA were out of reach from a genic perspective…you really didn’t have a chance.
The boulders are going to be there, some of them they will be able to avoid or climb, some will make them change directions. But parents can do very little to make them go away.
My advice to the parents is that the most important thing we do is listen, listen to what is being said and not being said. It’s the most important moments in your lives with your children, not because they will stay in or out of a sport- it is the moment that you tell them that they are important, loved and are being heard. When a child realizes that they have the power to change their own life everything becomes possible.