When I was younger, it was soccer tournaments for my sister and me, and tennis matches for my brother.
If it wasn't either of those, it was drama performances, piano lessons, diving practice or gymnastics competitions.
Often it involved very early mornings, or sometimes, pretty late nights, and on more than one occasion, entire weekends, sometimes even back to back.
BUT, one thing that I cannot recall is my parents EVER complaining (directly to me at least) about having to wake up at the butt crack of dawn on a Saturday to drive me to Jacksonville to play soccer.
Or, having to be at my school until 11 pm on a Friday and Sunday night, so that I could participate in my school's drama class showcases.
I can’t recollect a single disgruntled declaration made by either of them about having to be somewhere for me, so that I could be somewhere that I wanted to be, doing something I loved.
And, maybe, because I was incredibly blessed with two parents who valued my joy more than their sleep and sometimes, sanity, I'm willing to do the same for my two daughters and son.
The focus of so many individuals these days is simplicity.
Presently, many people are honed in on downsizing, minimalizing, and decluttering -- their brains and schedules.
I too am working on becoming at least a bit more comfortable with idleness and a slower-paced, slightly less busy lifestyle.
That being said, I am also a diehard believer in following my children's lead, as was done for me when I was a kid.
If you have a child who has found the passion for an activity, at which they are talented (or even if they are not), and they want to spend most of their (and your) time doing it, let them and don't complain.
When we choose to back our children in their endeavors wholeheartedly, they receive the benefit of growing up with the knowledge that parental love and support is everpresent, unconditional, and they feel motivated and encouraged.
There is a difference between being supportive of your child and trying to control them.
There is a difference between letting them walk all over you and agreeably walking alongside or behind them as they navigate their journey and explore their passions by way of opportunities.
Opportunities, which more of then than not, happen to occur as early 7 am or take us past 10 pm on any given day.
As the parent, we have the ability and right to say "no" to our kids as often as we want, and for all intents and purposes, we could simply say no to anything that requires us to be "on" during a time which we would much rather be "off."
And, because of this selfishness, we often push our selfish thoughts and biased opinions on what they "should" be doing, and how they should be spending their time, on to our children.
It's like, as parents, we pretty regularly feel “stuck,” and by pushing our child in a specific direction -- like away from any activity that is going to steal precious morning hours away from us, take us away from our Netflix downtime in the evening, or occupy an entire weekend -- it makes us feel unstuck.
But, how wrong of us it is to pretty much "stick it" to our child as the "rule-maker," and make our rules so that they benefit us.
While I'm not saying you must caravan your child all over Timbuktu whenever they demand that you do, I am contending that you base your decision on doing or not doing so, on whether or not it will benefit them and their growth, if they have earned the activity/opportunity and if they are respectful in how they ask and talk to you about it.
An old New York Times article referenced a woman names Diana Baumrind, a Clinical and Developmental Psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley.
In her piece, Baumrind contended that her research studies found that “the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive and who sets high expectations, but still respects her child’s autonomy.”
Sue Grossman, author of an article titled, “Offering Children Choices: Encouraging Autonomy and Learning While Minimizing Conflicts” affirmed “that giving children choices throughout the day is beneficial, even crucial to their development," as children whose autonomy has been encouraged, ultimately feel in control of themselves, have good self-esteem, strong cognitive development skills, and strong morals/principles." They are also good at accepting responsibility, minimizing conflict and are committed to learning.
But, yes, the thing about being a stellar parent -- one who regularly provides opportunities for their child to explore their passions and then supports and encourages their child's autonomy -- is that such requires you to frequently give more of your already minimal free time or non-working time to your child, transporting them to and from these experiences and then attentively watching them participate in and learn from them.
You cannot push your child away from things, experiences, activities because they simply are not convenient for you.
If kids are not given a chance to expand their consciousness by way of doing what it is they love, they will end up feeling stuck, and their ensuing discouraged, frustrated and piss-poor attitude will really be an inconvenience; more than that early morning or late night.
When we let our children develop their interests organically, and selflessly provide numerous opportunities for them to tend to such interests, we are aiding in our child's discovery of self.
And, truthfully, that is something, though always ongoing for each of us even through adulthood, that will encourage (hopefully) early recognition of what it is that lights their fire and what that fire can help them become as life unfolds.
Here is a brief and inclusive list of how us, parents, can help our children’s interests develop in an organic, unforced way:
Let the child guide you instead of you guiding them.
Pay attention to whether the child is showing that they are more of a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner.
Talk to the child about their likes and dislikes.
Talk to the child about what makes them happy and what scares them.
Praise the child for things he or she does well and praise the child for trying new things.
Applaud the child for putting forth effort with challenging tasks.
Help logistically facilitate extra-curricular activities and social opportunities, that the child wants to do, and that build on the child’s strengths and interests.
If the child is not sure what interests her, take the child to the library and help her or him select books or articles about different topics of interest.
Let your child teach or show you something he is good at or proud of.
Make time to provide the child with opportunities to explore different, even some out-of-the-box areas of interest.
Motivate the child to stay engaged in new activities for a little bit longer than they would like, but do not force them if they seem entirely “over it.”
Instead of coming up with an activity or pointing out a possible interest, stop and wait to see what the child is drawn to or doing first; abandon your idea and meet them where they are already engaged.
Take note of which activities make the child smile and laugh and do more of those.
Pay attention to what gets and keeps the child’s attention and find activities that are in a similar realm.
Overall, what is most important is that we, as parents stop worrying about our children’s future, stop rushing it, but also stop being a roadblock on the path to it.
If all we all want is to provide our kids with the best chance for success, we must adhere to the notion that this holy grail of “success” is just our kids being happy and doing what interests them.
And, if what presently interests them requires you get out of bed, make team snacks and get to the teeball practice field by 8 am every Saturday, then so be it.
If what brings them joy and ultimates aid in their development requires that they occasionally stay up past regular bedtime, which means your Netflix, wine and chill time gets cut in half, so be it.
Our kids have one shot at this life, and we have one opportunity at getting this parenting thing right.
Getting right doesn't mean that you have to be a "yes" person forever and always put your child's desires ahead of your needs.
Still, there sure as heck needs to be a reasonable balance and expectation that each decision you are making to keep them from an experience -- that just so happens to take place and inconvenient time for you -- is for their benefit and not yours.
Somewhat ironically, your child will grow up in a slower, more harmonious, peaceful and natural way, if you follow their lead. Allowing your driven child to keep the pace he or she desires, and adapting your own so that you are both more aligned, will foster that child's sense of self-worth, self-trust, and self-confidence.
I would venture to guess your offspring will also have and show more appreciation for you, the selfless, doting parent who sidelines her sleepytime dreams so that he or she can pursue their real life ones.
This past weekend, myself, my husband, my five-year-old and my three-year-old all woke up between 4 am and 4:30 am to drive 1.5 hours away so that my seven-year-old daughter could dance in a competition with an on-stage time of 8:18 am.
Two weekends ago we were at another competition an hour away that monopolized our whole weekend.
And, in another two weeks, on Mother's Day weekend, we will, once again, be driving an hour away to dance for two days.
When we do these things for our children -- that take away our precious time with which we could do something else less exhausting, but also less meaningful -- we are reminded that we are getting right by making a simple glance in the child's direction and taking a mental snapshot of the joy and growth these opportunities are allowing for.
Though maybe they made such comments to one another, I never heard my parents complaining about having to be somewhere for me, so that I could be at that somewhere I wanted to be, doing what I loved. And, because I was raised in such a way, I don't want to ever complain about whatever it is I need to do, how early I must wake up or how late I must stay up so that my children can be where they want to be, doing what it is they love.
A child's passion doesn't care if the adult chaperone is tired. It has found a place inside of your love nugget where it longs to reside so long as your tyke allows it to remain and feeds it.
And, who the heck am I to deprive my kid and her passion in the measly name of more sleep?
I won't, and maybe, just perhaps, that is how I am getting at least a little bit of this parenting thing right.