Thursday, April 9, 2015

Raising successful children

There is an inordinate amount of time spent at indoor soccer. Inordinate meaning days every week for watching practice or scrimmage-like games, days where you see the same kids playing pretty consistently. My kids enjoy soccer, but they are not the kind of players that are hungry for the ball, first across the line, driven by some inner force that zips them up the field. Nor am I the kind of parent that coaches (at least not all of the time) from the sideline, calling to their kid when they are standing at midfield to give them pointers or tell them how to run plays. Those are the achievement-oriented parents who are gunners themselves and have gunner kids...or don't. I've always wondered that. What's it like to be a non-gunner kid of a gunner parent?

And there is also a little something in me that wonders if the decision we made not to be pressure-focused and achievement-forward parents has meant that my kids step back a little too much, are less driven than they probably could/should be, less likely to get into the college of their dreams, less likely to be superstars who have climbed mountains and made a perfect grade on their SAT and started their own magazine by the time they are 12. It's also a privileged position that my kids don't have to think about these things the way other children do. I think about this a lot and I wonder, as most parents do, if we are doing the right thing not manning up our boy or perfecting our girl, if the lack of nightly math homework will really screw them in the end.

And then I have a day like the other day where I am driving down the road with my precious cargo when the topic of change comes up: big changes, small changes, god knows we've had our fill. D says "Well, this year I have been through A LOT of change." I smile, thinking "no doubt, dude", but I ask him what he means and the conversation goes something like this:

D:  Well, this year I have been through A LOT of change, Mom.
M:  Like what, bro? What kind of change are you thinking about?
D:  Um, Mom? BRACES?
M: Braces?
D: Yeah mom, BRACES. It's like the biggest thing that's ever happened to me. It's huge!
M: Well, it is, D. Your parents also got divorced and don't live together anymore and we are all moving to Rhode Island in a few months, but I hear you on the braces.
D: Well, the divorce was ok, though. I mean, I know it's hard for a lot of kids, but it has not been a big deal because you and Dad did such a good job with it. I meant to say that to you the other day. I just don't know what the big deal is about divorce.
M: (totally misty). Well, it is a big deal to a lot of kids, D, I'm glad you recognize that. And I'm glad you feel confident about how your dad and I have worked things out. I love you, Buddy. You're the best.
D: Thanks, Mom. (big smile, squeeze on shoulder)

It's those moments where I think that it's all going to be ok, that we are raising some emotionally kick ass kids who think a lot about things, whose strengths lie mostly in the way they relate to others, whose lives are held tight by people that love them, many of whom do not live under the same roof.

I'll always be worried about the path, in so many ways different than the one that I was given as a child. I'll always be worried that I haven't done the right thing as a parent, that love is not enough, that my kids will look back and wonder why I didn't push them harder or expect them to achieve more. I suspect they will, in any condition, know that I loved them, more than anything in the world. And their 43 year old selves will continue to feel that, whatever path in life they choose.

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