I must confess to mixed feelings about modern day parenting. There are times when I feel we’re on the right track with encouragement and nurturing. Other times I feel we coddle our kids too much nowadays. Of course, both of these sentiments are probably just a repeat of how every generation feels.
Back in my day...
When life is said and done, the wins and losses and multiple ties really won’t matter. The question of pushing too hard or not prodding enough will hopefully all shake out to produce great kids. All any of us parents can do is teach some discipline and respect. We can lead by example. We can be parent or friend when the situation calls for each. We can love unconditionally give a lot of hugs. We can doctor the many injuries that we fail to prevent. We can tell them over and over not to touch the hot stove, but the experience of that first burn must happen at least once to gain real knowledge.
In reality, we just hope and pray the we are saying and doing the right things. Only time will tell.
Looking back on my own childhood, I can remember very few victories or defeats or great achievements. Somehow, though, I distinctly recall the few times when I learned a bit of character. The proudest moments I have as a father are when I see moments of character developing in my own kids.
Cue the flashback music.
It was a beautiful spring day and I was running sprints up the driveway between sets of lifting weights. Calling my pace a sprint is a generous term, but sounds better than really awkward fast jog with arms and legs flailing about. Mom was inside and the kids were out with me enjoying the perfect weather. After mostly ignoring my huffing and puffing, Parker (age 7) spoke up and challenged old Dad to a race. I offered him a head start and his sister gleefully offered to be the judge. After a lengthy song and dance on the rules, Peyton (age 5) said, “ReadySetGo!” and we were off. It looked like the handicap was too much for me to overcome when, suddenly, Parker looked back to see how much he was going to win by.
This was a split second parenting decision where I had to decide to teach a lesson or to back off. Subliminally, a decision was made and I won the race and kisses from the now princess/mermaid/judge. Parker was crushed and sulked to the side, not willing to talk. I tried to explain about not looking back and running through the finish line, but my words seemed to fall on deaf, disappointed ears.
My own heart sank. I figured I’d made a bad parenting decision.
Since no words could be had, I went back to my workout. After a few minutes, out of the corner of my eye, I spied movement around the side of the house. Upon investigation, Parker was running sprints between two fences. He was staying low and running through an imaginary finish line. I snuck off, smiled, and left him alone.
Some time later, he bounded up and asked for a rematch. I offered him the same head start and he was ready to go. Our princess/mermaid/judge had long gotten bored with this boy stuff, so it was just us two. Before we started, I knew what I had to do.
Of course, my sand-bagging was unnecessary. Damned if I couldn’t catch him, even though I tried my hardest. He beat me fair and square. I couldn’t get close. The look on his face said it all. He was so excited, we raced again. I got closer, but failed the second time as well. He beamed from ear to ear and went inside to brag to his sister.
Maybe practice and hard work do pay off. Maybe, we added a block of character this day.
Until next week, keep smiling.
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