Parenting – It’s Tough

Bailey and me on opening day of Camp Airy in Thurmont, MD

Of course with Bailey away at camp for the month, I’ve been thinking a lot about him and the things he does and says.  He’s a great kid – an interesting kid – and I seem to be appreciating him a lot without him here.  One incident in particular has been on my mind as I’m watching my various friends’ kids on the swim teams of their pool clubs.  Back in January or early February, Bailey was thinking that he didn’t want to be on the swim team anymore.  He’s a good swimmer, but not fast enough to compete with kids his age – especially since he’s little.  His size does matter already in some sports.  However, I had registered him for the session already (this team swims year-round in an indoor pool).  Bailey plays soccer and basketball and does other things – I wasn’t married to the idea of swim team for him.  The deadline approached for getting a partial refund for the session and he was still swimming every day for the coach.  I told him that he had to make a decision by the drop-dead date.  I’d inform the coach of his decision.  I was pretty sure Bailey would quit the team.

Well, he didn’t.  Not by the date anyway.  A few days after the drop-dead date, he complained again and said he didn’t want to swim anymore.  I was mad.  I said that he was too late and now he had to swim for the whole session – another month or 6 weeks.  He was pretty calm – he often stays calm when I’m riled up – and he said that maybe I could tell the coach he really didn’t want to do it anymore.  Sincerely.  He meant it this time.

I really was pissed.  The deadline had passed, so I lost $300 for the session.  At least if he had quit a week prior, I could have gotten half of it back.

We were in the car at the time, and I specifically remember pulling up to the American Club to drop him off for practice and turning around to face him.  “No,” I said, “If you want to quit, then you have to take the responsibility now. You have to deal with the coach.”  To be honest, I never in a million years thought Bailey would do it.  I knew how much Bailey admired the coach and how he really did not want to disappoint him. Bailey works hard, and the coach is a very encouraging person.  They got along well together.

Later, after practice, I picked him up again.  He was distraught and I could tell he had been crying.  I asked him what was wrong.  He had done it.  He had told the coach that he wanted to concentrate on his other sports, and thanks for the encouragement, but it was time for him to leave the team.  I was shocked to say the least.  He said the coach was great, thanking him for the effort he put in, and glad that Bailey could concentrate on what was important to him.

Later Bailey said it was the hardest thing he had ever done.  And the coach later sent me an email telling me that Bailey had handled it very gracefully.  It was the best $300 I ever lost.

Both Bailey and I learned a big lesson that day.  He learned to do something difficult, and stand by a decision if it was the right decision for him.  And me, Bailey’s mother, I learned to let him take the bumps and bruises of it because the little bumps and bruises he takes now will prepare him for life’s greater bumps and bruises later on.

Yesterday I read a great article (Thank you, MLZ!) from this month’s The Atlantic by Lori Gottleib, titled, “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy.”  Gottleib is a mother and a therapist, and it is her contention that young people land in therapy in disproportionate numbers due to their parents’ desire to shield their children from ever feeling any pain.  The parents, she reports, intend to be the best parents they can be, but in their zeal to create an atmosphere of perfect happiness for their little darlings, they fail to teach their kids how to handle hurt in their childhood, and therefore the same children, reaching adulthood cannot handle the bigger hurts of the real world.  But it’s not just that.  Gottleib details the effects of boosting the kids’ self esteem to the extreme and offering kids too many choices.  The piece is beautifully written and delightfully descriptive and detailed.  It’s rare to find something that speaks to today’s parenting so completely – at least in my opinion.  Here’s the link:

I have been feeling  guilty for months because I let Bailey take the heat for quitting the swim team, and made him stand up and speak to his coach when it would have been so easy for me to do it for him.  But thanks to the article, I feel great about it now.  Easy is not always better. Learning right from wrong and how to handle various situations that life throws your way – in the long run, that will make everything easier.  Long term goals – hard to keep in mind, but definitely worth the effort.  It’s my job to teach my kids to handle these things and there’s no time like the present to start.

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