As a parent, there are so many choices that I make where my overarching philosophy about how to raise a strong, compassionate, disciplined kid are directly opposed to my kind hearted, I love my kid too much to do this to them, softness. In my head, I know that discomfort brings growth, that unconditional love can bridge almost any disagreement over time, and that even if my teenager doesn’t like me today, I’m still pretty sure he’s going to love me when he’s 40 but learning to look for the long ball over the instant gratification of making one of my kids happy in the moment, requires check in multiple times a day with what I am trying to train and inspire in each of them. Training is born in the consistency of my message and their actions in response to that message. Inspiration is what I hope I can provide for them by showing them, by example, what makes life great…finding a purpose, understanding how ego affects us, both for better and for worse and identifying their unique gifts that are meant to carry them to the outer reaches of their potential.
I know that the results of my parenting choices don’t usually show up immediately, and many of them not until years later. I’ve been at this for almost 18 years now and although I’ve learned a lot of things and think that I have always had a pretty good gut instinct, the questions like, “Am I pushing too hard?” “Am I doing this for my own ego?” or flat out, “Am I going to make my child feel neglected and unloved?” still loom large in my mind in big and even small decisions. On top of that, my decision making relationship with my kids has also had to become, at least from moment to moment, one that will stand on its own...no questions, no backup, no good cop/bad cop. That has been an evolution in itself, testing my resolution and ability to stand firm in what I believe. Every once in awhile though, one of my kids will say something that reminds me that the principles I believe in, and have adhered to in the past in some uncomfortable moments, do pay off.
Today Luke came home from a USA Beach Volleyball tryout and we were chatting about who his team will play in the CIF State Tournament for indoor boys volleyball next week. He was explaining how one team gets selected from the North, which includes teams from Fresno where we used to live. He asked me if I knew who was dominant up there, and started listing teams he knew from the area…
"Buchanan, Clovis North, Clovis…I wish we would play Bullard and Roy Verduzco," he said. “Remember when you guys dropped me off at his beach camp? I was younger than Matthew.” (who is 11)
“Of course! You were 8, and most of the other boys attending drove themselves there! I remember leaving there thinking, what are we doing?”
Even though Coach told me it was fine, I remember Luke looking at me like, are you seriously leaving me here? He’ll be fine Coach assured me, so off we went, me with a pit in my stomach. A few hours later we came back and Luke was playing doubles on the one beach court against boys twice his age, pretty much getting his hat handed to him, but digging and serving and surviving! I was in awe. On top of that, these boys gave him candy and carried him off the court when it was over. And he went back again the for the next session.
"Yeah, that ended up being fun." he said today.
These conversations that I get out of almost grown children are priceless. As Luke’s volleyball has progressed and become such a developmental staple in his life, where he learns discipline, leadership, how to keep a clear head under pressure, and countless other lessons that will undoubtably enhance his life, this goes down as one of my favorite stories. It will always remind me to trust my gut even when it feels scary, keep a close eye on what inspires my kids, and challenge them to use that gift to help build their confidence and make them great, not just at their sport or interest, but great at life.