There is no way to say this without it coming across as bragging so I’m going to be blunt: my kid is naturally athletic. From the time he started to walk, he was coordinated, sure-footed, and quick. He has good-hand eye coordination too so he’s taken to sports like a duck to water. This is awesome for me as his activities coordinator (an unpaid position, which seems unfair since it’s almost as much work as my old job as a project manager) because it means I can just sign him up for soccer or t-ball or swimming lessons and I can count on him having a good time doing it. And I won’t lie, it’s really fun to be the parent of the kid who can clock the t-ball halfway across the park and receive admiring looks from coaches and parents.
However, I don’t actually put a lot of emotional investment into my son’s athletic abilities. I want him to do active things and I want him to have fun but I don’t care if he’s good at sports or not.
I was at swimming lessons a few weeks ago and the mom of the kid who had the lesson before my son was grilling the teacher about her son’s stroke and what improvements he needed to make now so he wouldn’t have to unlearn bad habits later. Her son was about 8 and, from his behavior during his lesson, didn’t seem to have the ambition to be the next Michael Phelps. He wasn’t even listening to the coach’s suggestions as his mom asked questions. He was off eating the lollipop that all the kids get as rewards after lessons. I sat there watching all of this and thinking that the only reason I have C in swimming lessons is so he won’t drown at the pool this summer. I don’t care if he’s good at swimming. I just want him safe in the water.
Now, if C develops a deep love of one sport and shows an interest in mastering it, I’ll give him all the support he wants. That’s what my parents did when my interest in horseback riding bloomed into a full-on devotion to the sport (I know – it sounds so elitist. I assure you, it wasn’t. I never owned a horse and I was mucking stalls and cleaning tack, not just trotting around a show ring). They took me to lessons and competitions and made sure I had the equipment that matched my needs as I grew in the sport. But at the same time, I knew that the day I wanted to walk away from it, they would have let me do so without any recriminations. I want to do the same for C. I want him to know that we’ll back him up if he wants to pursue sports seriously but it has to come from him. I’m not going to push him. Kids should do sports out of love, not out of parental pressure.
C has soccer camp coming up and for sure you’ll see me on the sidelines cheering him on in his scrimmages and for sure I’ll be glowing with pride at my speedy boy zipping all over the field. But after the game all you’ll hear me say is “Was that fun, buddy? Do you need some water?”. I won’t be pushing him to do better because the best I hope for is a good time in the fresh air.
Photo credit: photo stock
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