We have probably all seen something similar to the situation I am going to describe. I was walking with my seven-year-old daughter to her softball practice in the sweltering heat. All of a sudden, we heard a really ticked off mom screaming at two baseball coaches. Her son was sitting nearby with his head in his hands. The mom was incredibly upset that a new player joined the team and was apparently taking her son’s starting spot. This was happening in front of dozens of parents and kids. It was embarrassing and awkward, to say the least.
Listen. I get it. We all are invested in our children and their activities. That said, this seemed like a conversation that needed to happen between that mom and her child’s coaches in a more private setting, preferably one that did not involve a mortified child having to witness the whole thing. But it did get me thinking about how we as parents support kids and their activities.
I played all kinds of sports growing up including softball, volleyball, basketball, and even a short stint of motocross racing. I loved sports because of the friendships, the competition, and the dedication to something bigger. So when I had kids, I assumed they would likely follow in my footsteps. We signed Mia up for soccer, bought the wagon on wheels, and geared up for our first match. She ended up playing a few seasons, but we could tell she was a little more interested in chatting with her friends than perfecting her scissors and drag backs. (I had to google “soccer moves” because we didn’t even get that far with the sport. Ha!)
Around the same time, she started asking us to sign her up for horse riding lessons. Mia had been to a local barn to watch a close family friend ride and was immediately entranced. I thought it might be just the latest thing that looked fun for her, but she kept asking for months. As you might guess, horse lessons are not cheap, but we signed her up to give it a whirl.
When she started lessons, it was as if a lightbulb went off. Mia LOVED everything about it. She still does. She has been riding for two years now, and it is very clearly her passion. AND Mia is just as happy to be riding as she is to scoop poop out of stalls and groom. The lessons have given her a new sense of confidence. She’s becoming comfortable with new challenges and has even earned ribbons in several horse shows. It’s a completely foreign world to me, and I rarely know what the heck we are doing, but when I see her eyes light up when it’s “Horse Barn Day,” I know we are doing the right thing by supporting her passion.
It was recently time to sign up for another soccer season. I started to log in to get everything set up and then realized I should probably ask Mia to make sure she wanted to continue. I’m glad I did because she said she felt like soccer might not be her thing and she would rather focus on horse riding and softball. It seems so simple to stop and have a check-in with your kids about their activities. I am always checking myself to make sure my kid is excited about an activity and is not participating simply because I’M excited about an activity, but I admittedly had not really checked in directly with her before.
Let’s be honest. Very few of us are raising college or professional athletes. It is important to me that my kids are doing things in their free time that THEY enjoy. I will not be the parent who is very clearly living vicariously through her children. I am a firm believer that kids will find something they are passionate about if you listen to them, then let them explore and try new things. I’m an even more firm believer that it’s okay and even pretty cool if it ends up being an activity you are not familiar with.
Maybe this will spark some of you to sit down with your kids and have a conversation about what they are loving, what they might want to put on hold, and something new they might want to try. You might be surprised at what you find out. I was!