Is she disappointed? Yes. Am I disappointed? Yes. But she's ten. And more than anything at this stage of her life, I really believe she needs to sleep this one out on the couch. And I'm human, and I totally own that little voice inside my head that is saying, "but she REEEEEEALLY needs to lower her seed time. She needs to swim faster. She needs to do this... She needs to do that..." But she's ten. I hear from this little voice quite a bit when it comes to my daughter's swimming, because it's amazing to watch this little human that you've created and shaped and loved with all of your soul truly excel at something, and it's easy to get caught up in it and to let this little voice take over in the name of doing what's best for your child. But I've learned not give this voice too much credence. Because she's ten.
I've heard kids at swim meets chattering about how much money they've been promised per race if they place first, second, or third. I've heard parents offer their child obscene amounts of money if they beat a particular child in a race. I've heard parents appeal to their 8 and unders with the threat of no My Little Ponies if they don't do their best in a race. Has it always been like this? I certainly don't remember it being so.
I'm not soft. I'll be the first to tell my daughter to suck it up and realize there are much bigger things than whatever non-crisis crisis she may be getting worked up over. But she's ten. So she's got eight years in this sport in front of her if she decides she's going to use her talent to take her somewhere. Eight. Years. In those eight years, if she continues to work hard and own her gift, who knows where it could take her. It's fun to speculate. But she's ten. And eight years is a long time - almost another whole lifetime for her so far. Who knows what other opportunities will present themselves or what changes might precipitate a huge and unexpected shift in the course of her life.
Competitive sports offer a wealth of personal growth opportunities for children. There are things kids can learn from being a part of an athletic team that they cannot learn elsewhere, and I would love to see every child participate in at least one sport. But uber-competitive parents who give in to that little voice, or who may be seeking their own recognition through their children, have turned athletics into another vehicle through which modern society is threatening the sanctity of childhood. It is one thing to support a child in pursuit of a goal if the drive and desire is genuinely the child's. And it's one thing to recognize a sincere gift in your child and encourage him or her to embrace and explore it. But we have to stop pushing our kids to the breaking point at a younger and younger age. Bribing and threatening and scaring them into performing when they still go to a school that has recess. And we have to stop paying our kids for performance. Whether it's a certain cut time in a sport, or a home run, or first place, or an A on their report card. This pay for performance movement is happening at younger and younger ages as well, and it robs children of the opportunity to simply feel pride in a job well done. It robs them of experiencing the beauty in the sense of accomplishment that is the natural reward for hard work. And it teaches them instead to immediately put a hand out and ask, "what do I get?"
Elle just woke up. She was panicked that we might be late to the meet. When I told her we weren't going, she immediately said she wanted to go. She had to go. And... she didn't want her team, her coach, or us - her parents - to be upset with her. Gut check moment. So I rubbed her head, gave her a kiss and asked her if she thought she should swim. Still a little panicked, she said, "No, but..."
I'm a goal-oriented person. I'm a pusher. And I sincerely hope that my daughter grows to pursue her goals with immeasurable tenacity. But she's ten. So for now, I hope to always have the wisdom to ignore that little voice when it's best for her that I do. And I hope that I will always recognize when she truly needs to be cuddled rather than pushed. And I'm hoping that you will strive to do the same.
Unimaginable events occurred in our “City Beautiful” this past weekend. Fifty innocent lives were violently taken by two broken individuals in two separate Orlando tragedies. And in the aftermath, the responses have reflected both rage and grace. Some have given blood, water, food, clothing, blankets, time, and prayers. Others have pointed fingers and cast aspersions, blaming the Republicans, the Democrats, gun control activists, gun rights activists, left wing, right wing, Christian, Muslim, the police, the FBI, the President. There is no lack of hatred flying off the fingertips of some Facebookers, while others post calls for prayers and positive thoughts and have changed their Facebook profile pictures in support of the victims and the city. It’s on every t.v. channel, every radio station. I opened Facebook this morning and was sobbing within seconds after seeing a text from one of the victims just moments before his last breath. It took me several minutes to get control of myself.
So what do we tell our children? What do we tell our daughters as we try to raise them to respond with grace and not rage in all circumstances. How do we parents fight against the machine of destruction our society can sometimes be? How do we do this with grace and not rage, because our daughters will do as we do? How do we get on the right side of this thing?
It was the only word my daughter spoke when I told her what had happened. She’s only ten, so I was cautious with my words and told her only what I thought she needed to know – that a very bad man killed some people in a nightclub. I didn’t want her to be caught off guard if some of the older kids brought it up at swim practice or when she inevitably overheard something about the situation. But it raised the ever pressing question of how much should we shelter our daughters? At what point does it become dangerous to protect their innocence? Is a ten year old supposed to know that hatred rages so violently within the souls of some men strictly because they don’t agree with who strangers choose to love? At what point as parents do we have to strike a balance with our children between fear and awareness?
“I don’t know.”
It was the only response I knew to give her. And the only way I know how to teach her to respond to such evil and to such tragedy is to choose grace over rage myself. I am angry. I am in pain. I ache for the victims and their families and their friends and our children who will inherit a beautiful world that we have done much to destroy. A world we have turned into a machine of destruction against selflessness and brotherly love. But I will choose to fight this machine with grace and not rage. I will choose to give blood, food, clothing, blankets, time, and prayers. And as long as our daughters see us respond with grace and not fan the flames of rage, we have to rest in knowing we are doing the best we can to help them right this ship.