When I was a teenager, and obviously knew everything that there was to know about life, my parents directed a family council meeting towards the issue of my being a know-it-all and general pest. My parents asked the family to envision a hill that was surrounded by a thick jungle inhabited by snakes, tigers, cliffs, and all kinds of other obstacles that would need to be crossed. My parents were standing on an overlook at the top of the hill as my sisters and I, at separate parts of the outer edge of the jungle, tried to meander our way through the jungle towards the top of the hill.
The point of the lesson was to help us understand that although we were walking through a jungle full of dangerous obstacles, also known as life, they could see where we were walking from their place perched up on top of the tower on the hill. Their job as our parents was to watch the paths we were taking and to warn us of danger ahead.
And as a young know-it-all teenager, I knew what the lesson was about. But I wouldn’t admit that my parents may have actually known a thing or two about life and that decision turned out to be a huge, colossal mistake.
Life eventually beat my know-it-all tendencies right out of me. And now I’m facing the same challenges as my parents did… with my own daughter.
Somewhere along the way, my eldest child Addie discovered that she is a know-it-all and she has adopted this as her life motto. The girl thinks that she knows absolutely EVERYTHING.
Now I’m the parent on the hill who has been through the jungle and can help guide Addie through the obstacles I once walked through myself. Although I’ve been there before and I fully understand her belief that she truly does know everything about life, I have to find a way to get through to her. At some point in her teenage years, I want her to be able to listen to me before she makes too many huge, colossal mistakes.
For now, Addie is only 9 years-old and the mistakes she can make aren’t likely to have major consequences, but the fact remains that the kid will not believe anything I tell her.
There is no better example than our conversations about gymnastics. Addie loves gymnastics, and she wants gymnastics to be a sport that she plays throughout high school. Unfortunately, Addie does not love practice and exercise. It’s kind of hard to end up on a gymnastics team without the work ethic it takes to develop the skills necessary to compete at that level. I have explained to Addie countless times that gymnastics requires strength, exercise, desire, and focus. Every time we’ve had one of those conversations, it goes in one ear and out the other. I’m not pushing the kid like one of those overly-obsessed parents who lives vicariously through their children. All I’m asking Addie to do is some push-ups, pull-ups, and other gymnastics related exercises more than once per week. However, because her gymnastics class only has one conditioning day per week, she believes that conditioning is only necessary once per week.
I’ve been in her shoes. I’ve sat on the football field not wanting to run anymore laps around the park, not understanding why being in shape was important to playing football. I’ve stood on the basketball court not wanting to practice anymore rebounding drills because I was more of a scorer. In the famous words of Allen Iverson, “We Talk’n bout Practice.”
I eventually understood the importance of practice, but by the time I understood what it took to make the necessary improvements… it was too late. High school was over, I was married with a kid on the way, and playing a college sport ranked at the bottom of my priorities list.
Addie only has two years left before she either has to be good enough to make a team, or she has to give up the sport altogether. That means I have about 6 months to figure out how to get Addie to trust me before it’s too late, and the odds of that happening are about as good as me suddenly joining an NFL team as their second string quarterback.
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