Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In the world of competitive parents...

Every 6 months or so I rebel. I think it is a natural inclination as a mother to throw my hands up in the air and declare, "Whatever. I am done." I had one of those days on Sunday. The attitude of the culmination of 2 weeks with my mother-in-law, a week of living in my car more than my bed and a weekend where I shuttled kids to 2 birthday parties, 2 soccer games, 1 swim practice, a church directory picture, and a sleepover. Not to mention what goes along with those activities, which I will list anyway - 2 birthday presents wrapped, one swim bag packed, 2 soccer uniforms clean and ready and preparation for the directory picture so that at minimum we look like we pondered the merits of personal hygiene on a weekly basis.

Per my usual fashion of inssurection, I start trying to dump any commitments that I have in order to simplify my life. It usually comes at my own expense because what is easiest to let go are the ones that no one else cares about...mine. My kids and my husband won't complain if I put a halt to bible study or some coffee breaks with my friends. However, knowing this ultimately results in hurting myself and building resentment, I refrained for once. Instead, I begin scurrying around looking for some non-existent solutions and blame everyone at tearing at the last remains of my sanity.  Ranting never works; I should know that by now.

Yet, this entire cycle of constant activity and its ramifications would not leave my brain. This continuous analysis was compounded by a chapter in my current bible study on resting and why God asks us to do it. The residuals of the Chinese Mothers saga and a few run-ins with uber competitive parents has forced me to ask this one question about my life: What is my motivation with all this running around?

I always said that I wanted my kids to have a sport they love, a musical instrument they could play and learn to contribute to the world in a socially conscious way, not to mention the academic goals which include all three of them being admitted to Carolina (just kidding, or am I?). That is a lot of expectation when you are mother of three - three who are still pretty dependent on motivation, transportation and logistics. Lest I forget the most important aspect of mothering for me...their spiritual journey. Nothing like the weight of that on your shoulders. I know God is ultimately the One who will see that one through, but it is my responsibility to rear them in His way.

With those "goals" in my head, I charted our paths towards success! Please note the use of heavy sarcasm in that sentence. We have dabbled in piano and guitar lessons, swim teams, soccer teams, gymnastics, art camps, cheerleading, sporatic dance classes, basketball for a season or two, scouts, and a type of girl scouts, and horseback riding. Through homeschool classes Sadie is learning dance, drama, music, art, and even sign language.

In comparison, by the end of my 5th grade year, I could chalk up two years of piano and a season or two of community girls softball. That was it. Something has changed within one generation and I want to know what. What is in the heart of the thousands of parents toting kids to soccer fields on a Saturday, to pay costly fees for special clinics and spend hours sitting around in camping chairs, on bleachers and even better, in our cars waiting for our special blessings to become the next Mozart, Beckham, van Gogh or Phelps.

Well, I have looked deep and I know my motivation is not founded where it should be. I am going to be very real here. I do all these things because I don't want my kids to be left behind. I don't want them to miss out on any fulfilling any gifts and talents they may have. I fear that they will not have every opportunity open to them when they are grown because I did not push them. I worry that my kids will be just average - really not "good" at anything. Did I just write that? Pitiful, just a pitiful comment on me.  What is the craziest part of this I know I don't have very little control on how my kids turn out, yet I continue to push forth.

With very few exceptions, most kids under the age of 10 are participating in sports because they love being around other kids. The actual activity in which they are participating in is somewhat a moot point. Although, I know Ethan is developing a greater love of the actual sport of swimming this year. Sadie, however, is no longer swimming. The competition, the pressure, her desire to do well churned her insides into an emotional mess. Taking time away has been a great thing and if she ever decides to go back to year round swimming, it will be on a non-competitive level.

Yesterday, I also spoke with several other moms regarding this issue. They, being further along the mothering role than I, did affirm that there was something crazy about these toting around years. However, they assured me that it settles down. It is just a season. Parents become a little less crazy, everyone's expectations lower and most allow the kids to drive the show. The world of opportunity begins shrinking as they discover, and thus hone in on, what they are passionate about. That was affirming to hear.

I am still working through this from a biblical standpoint. The priorities in life should be God, spouse, family and then work. Yet, I know valuable life lessons have been learned through my kids' involvement in sports and extra-curricular activities. Perseverance, showing grace, encouragement, forgiveness, and dealing jealousy are just a few of the key lessons I can quickly list. Where is the balance?

So, what is the take away from all this?

1. It is a season. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

2. Fun should always be the first and only priority. Kids put themselves under enough pressure as it is.

3. If you become mad, yell or cry regarding your child's performance, then it has stopped being about your child and more about you. Crying for happiness because of your child's happiness does not count although it is hard for me to relate because I am not a "cryer."

And finally,

4. God created your child, giving him special gifts and abilities. No one and nothing will stand in the way of God seeing these worked out in his life in the way God knows best, no matter how hard a parent tries.  He is a sovereign God.

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