Sunday, April 8, 2012

Go With the Flow

The other day I went to a rugby game to watch my son play. I must admit that I’ve never been a sports fan, and I’m especially not a fan of rugby, which looks like a lot of fun but appears to be even more dangerous than football (in fact, two of my kids took up rugby in college, most likely because I, ahem, encouraged them to be in the marching band in high school rather than on the football team). And thanks to rugby our medical expenses have been much higher than we’d like (torn meniscus, concussions, etc.).
            Which leads me to my topic…the sticky question of exactly how much guiding, prodding, instructing, and downright forcing we do when we try to get our kids to go in a certain direction, or even more precisely, to NOT go in a certain direction. And do we do more harm than good when we intervene, intercede and put our foot down?  (A friend, who was extremely protective of her son as a child, now has to bite her tongue when he goes cliff climbing or white water rafting.)
            Since I am the mother of three sons, I had three opportunities to try out my theories on this subject, but all of my experiments and ponderings have led to basically the same conclusion: follow them where they lead, be there to support and cheer them on, and let them decide. Chances are, if it’s the wrong path for them they’re going to find out pretty soon anyway, and if we the parents step in to thwart their efforts they’re probably going to just try something even more idiotic or dangerous at a later time, or when we’re not looking.
            Long ago, when I was starting my parenting journey, I told one of my sons that he couldn’t get a drum set (in a small house, with younger siblings who needed to take naps, it didn’t seem feasible). Instead, I guided him toward the piano and saxophone, which were swiftly abandoned as soon as he left for college. Years later, I realized that the drums would have been a perfect instrument for him, and his instincts had been right. (And he still bemoans the fact that I never bought him a set, though he could now afford to buy himself ten drum sets or more.)
            Thus, I’m pictured above at my youngest’s rugby game (where, BTW, he received a very nasty clout on the head before my very eyes, but seems to have survived). Yes, we give them life, but we don’t own them, nor do we own their paths. Happily (unlike ballet) it’s not too late to start drumming--or practicing yoga for that matter! (Sorry, guys, but I still can’t help offering a tiny suggestion now and then!)

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