For all the propagating and sermonizing I’ve done about parenting over the years and the how-to’s and the do’s and don’ts that you see on this blog related to parenting, there remains one constant that cannot be ignored – I’m human and my flaws become more and more apparent, even self-revealing the more I breathe and the more I write about life.
Parenting is always evolving, morphing from one thing to another. It’s a tough task (one that never ends) trying to stay current on what works best with your children to achieve the best results. Unfortunately, what works with some parents and their children won’t work for all parents and their children so anyone who tells you that they have the cookie cutter recipe for parenting may be selling you snake oil.
This week I’ve been reminded again about a very basic principle that I tend to overlook every time my boys are preparing to participate in another sports season. It was a pet peeve for me as a child and sadly I’m regurgitating some of the things that my parents said and did that I swore I would not do when I became a parent.
As a kid there was one thing (of the many that I complain about) that my parents said that would cause open hostility and outright, unabated rage for me – being compared to my older brother. To be fair, my parents recognized this early in my life and put a stop to the constant comparisons. They were also observant and humble enough to know that kids are different and therefore should be taught, mentored, coached (sometimes poked and prodded) differently.
My older brother was and is the model citizen in our family. Whatever mom and dad said, Big Bro followed instructions to the letter. If mom and dad said, ‘you boys clean your room, do your chores, run like a cheetah and jump like a kangaroo,’ Big Bro did all of those things and he did them all exceptionally. Then along came Seti. He hates cleaning rooms (definitely does NOT do windows), he occasionally does chores, he runs like a camel and he jumps like a hippo. See any problems so far?
At sporting events it was not uncommon to hear on the sidelines, “Hey did you see Big Bro Matua throw down that dunk?” To which the other observers, gawkers and grovelers would remark, “Yes and did you see how well Seti behaves on the bench?”
And my typical (sarcastic) response to this innocent and yet so typical banter would be, “I bet I could give you a fat lip with the bench.”
For a time I became bitter and held unwarranted animosity towards my brother and my parents not realizing that I was culpable for my thoughts and actions just as much as they were for theirs. I could not control the things that they say or did, but I could definitely influence my response to the situation.
My parents changed their point of view and encouraged me to do better rather than compelling me to be more like my brother. I worked harder on the things that I was good at rather than focusing on the things that my brother was good at and we came to the mutual understanding that I may not be as sleek and swift and as accommodating as my older brother but I had some endearing and respectable qualities of my own.
Unfortunately, the things that I promised I would not do as a parent have come back to haunt me again as I watch No. 3 slog and clomp up and down the football field wondering, ‘why is my kid such a slug and why does it seem like he’s bored with the process?’
There is a part of me that just wants to go out there and shake him like a bobble-head or light his pants on fire but I have to understand that he’s not like his brothers who are intense and passionate about things they are involved in. I have to realize that somewhere in there is a kid who does things his own way and that no amount of provoking will compel him to do what I want him to do until he wants it badly enough on his own. I have to know that if he does not like it he can walk away and we all have to be okay with it because his interests lie elsewhere.
Will it devastate me? Absolutely! Because I have learned all about teamwork, patience, humility, intensity, perseverance, conflict resolution, adversity and hard work while playing sports. But I know that you can also learn those things as an observer, as a spectator, as a fan of the games we play or through the interests and talents that we are blessed with or learn over time. I’ve learned and know through experience that if I do not handle this the right way that my relationship with my son is more important, more valuable than accumulating accolades.
Our kids are all different. Don’t make comparisons. Love, cherish and encourage them; that’s really all it takes to see them grow.