Doing the Hard Things

It’s a hard balance knowing when to push your kids and when to back off and let them make their own decisions.  They are getting older.  The decisions are less about physical harm (you will get burned if you touch that stove!) to more emotional, social, and moral.  It’s especially hard when the consequences are painful but you know they need to learn from it.
This was the case a few weeks ago when Nelson was going through a rough patch with basketball.  He’d had a tough day of soccer, then basketball, and then fell on the ice.  He said his knee hurt, he limped, and he absolutely COULD NOT play in his game.  Though I do believe his knee was sore, I suspected there was a larger issue.  I thought he was nervous and just wanted to forget he had ever signed up.
My dad with Brynne on his lap…thank goodness.  Watching sports with my two little girls can be such a treat (not).
The big day came and Nelson came home from school.  Nope, leg was still lame, couldn’t play.  I had been thinking about it all day, had discussed it with Gregor, and decided that he should have to at least try.  There were tears, anger, “I can’t do it!”and mom and dad saying, “You just have to try.   You’re part of the team.  If you really can’t play then you can sit on the bench with your team.”
“I don’t WANT TOO!”
“Tough.  You’re going.”
I have to say that I’m a rather impatient person when it comes to illnesses or injuries.  It’s a weakness I’m working on.  
But I made him go.
Then I watched from the sidelines.
Was it the right decision?
Nelson was happy when I wrapped his leg with an Ace bandage.  It made him feel a little more secure and he got some attention from his teammates.

And then…he was off.

He played the whole game.  Afterwards, when we asked if his leg hurt, he shrugged and said, “a little.”

There are only six boys on Nelson’s team.  He is not the best player.  He is not the worst.  He does not practice on his own every second he can get, like some boys do.  He is small, is not overly aggressive, and he hates to lose.  He takes it very hard.
In this case, I think we made the right call.  We made him do something that was hard.  And it worked out.  I think it was good for him.  I want my kids to do hard things.  In fact I want a big sign in my kitchen saying, “We Do Hard Things.” 
But it won’t always be my decision.  I’m still not sure I have the right balance.  In high school my parents let me quit track.  To this day, it’s my biggest regret.  I threw away a lot of opportunity when it really mattered.  I failed in that decision, but I also learned from it.  I think it made me stronger, more resolute about the kind of person I wanted to be.
It’s hard, this parenting thing.
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4 thoughts on “Doing the Hard Things

  1. Lindsey

    Great post. I think you did the right thing – I don’t have to worry about these parenting decisions yet…I’m still dealing with baby stuff, but I’m glad you’re going through it and can help me when I get there! I wanted to quit basketball at one point in high school and my parents wouldn’t let me (or at least STRONGLY encouraged me not to) and I’m SO glad that did that. I wanted to focus only on soccer, and my dad told me that playing basketball would make me a better soccer player and I definitely think it did…and opened so many more doors for me in college and beyond! Anyways, glad Nelson toughed it out…good job Mama!

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  2. Jacks

    Have you read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother? It’s kind of dealing with this (but to one extreme.) I haven’t read it yet, but I want to. If you read it, please post your thoughts:)

    Reply
  3. Allison Nelson

    Amy, you should have put that sign up in the chicken coop for Whitey: “We do hard things.” Then maybe she wouldn’t have given into her depression, loneliness, ostracization, and exclusion from the others. Maybe she could have triumphed over their pecks and scorn. Hmmm… just thinking out loud here.

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