One night at dinner this past spring, we had the rare occasion when we were all at the table together. We were just about to close up a year of school in a new town and so I asked our three kids:
“When you look back over your year, did you feel you were too busy, just busy enough, or not busy enough?”
“Too busy!” They all shouted.
The list came out.
I had bought, and I mean literally bought, into the belief that my job as a parent was to give my kids every opportunity possible, and if I didn’t sign them up for that camp, sport, instrument or activity, I was some how denying them the opportunity to live into their full potential. After all, what kind of parent was I if I didn’t put them in that sport or sign them up for that class? What if there was a hidden tennis champion or concert pianist in there and I denied them their Gold Medal or moment at Carnegie Hall?! AND, they if they aren’t playing Mozart by 2 or hitting the ball by 4, they will never be able to compete with those other kids, whose parent’s clearly are more put together than I.
Welcome to the World of Parent Projection Land, where parents make their child’s achievement their own. Where kids are valued for how awesome they are, and parents look awesome by making their kid awesome.
I realize I was way too invested in my children’s extra curricular activities when one daughter told me she wanted to quit piano and the other daughter wanted to quit the swim team, and I grieved to the point that I wondered if I was slightly insane. I cried in the bathroom, the car, and on the phone with my friends.
I loved playing the piano with my daughter and practicing with her every day and I got such a rush out of watching my other daughter swim. But, my job is not to use them for my own, personal joy or feeling of achievement. Their successes are not my successes and their failures are not my failures. I realized I was using their successes to make me feel good about myself. That’s messed up. My job is to be a parent not to relive my childhood through my children.
Remember childhood? Remember play? Remember free time? I don’t mean screen time. I mean bugs in a jar, art on the table, balls in the yard, bikes on the driveway, experiments in the fridge, chalk on the sidewalk, forts in the living room, and magic lands in the closet. I mean time to create, imagine, explore, hunt, organize, and dream. This year our calendar is still full. We still have sports, dance, instruments, church and, oh yeah, school. But we also are letting go of a lot so we can make room. By letting go, we make room for more family dinners and evenings at home. By letting go, we say “you should,” less and “let’s be” more. By letting go, we create the story of our home, we don’t let the calendar run our lives.
Parenting is hard work and we put this unbelievably heavy blanket of should, ought, what if, what about, beware, be aware, be careful, don’t you think, and pressure on ourselves and our children to be more than just individuals who are special, but no more special than anyone else. I am more interested in the people my children are becoming, than the program they are attending. It’s not about quitting or giving up, it’s about teaching balance, rest and self-worth and remembering that kid’s are kids and the pressure we put on them in childhood become the mental tapes they will play in adulthood.
We will see how they feel when we check in next spring…..
Blessings to you and your family as you venture off to another school year!