When deep in the trenches of motherhood, I sometimes feel as if I am drowning in worry brought on by an overabundance of difficult choices. Are my children eating enough whole foods? Are they reading enough? Are they active enough? Do they have the tools to do well in social situations?
I feel that the nail-biting anxiety over complicated decisions is because I have one hope for my children: to be happy. I want my children to find their joy and hold on it to it long after adulthood has a chance to tarnish the sparkle.
Not long ago, we were at a crossroads with our son, who is almost 4. Judging by his enthusiasm for throwing balls in the family room, we knew we needed to find an activity to help him release some of that energy in a constructive way.
When we tried out soccer and T-ball, we were sort of surprised when it didn’t work out. He hated to go and hung on to my husband the whole time he was there. Our friends and family were surprised that we even entertained the idea of soccer and T-ball since my husband played competitive hockey from childhood until high school and has continued on a beer league. There always seems to be someone who is asking us when we were going to be lacing up our son’s skates.
Although we offered hockey, we did not push it when he said no. We have made a very conscious choice of not pushing the activities that we did as kids on our children. I say conscious because it takes an effort to see our children, not as extensions of ourselves, but as individuals that must follow their own paths.
We decided to take a break from trying to help our son find something that he loved to do, but we always knew we would revisit it when he became a little older. We wanted him to find something that would help him feel good about himself.
Not long after his nursery school teacher told us that he has a lot of energy and watching him, in horror, as he jumped from the couch to the coffee table with such a sense of accomplishment, it hit me like a thunderbolt: gymnastics!
He has been in gymnastics since November, and he loves it. He gets to jump and run and swing. I feel something magical when I watch him diligently extend his arms in the air before he carefully tucks his chin in to do a forward roll. There are not too many parenting moments in which I say with confidence that we did the right thing, but the twinkle in his eye confirms what my heart already knew. I feel so happy for him.
And I feel proud — proud that he is happy. And I’m proud of me and my husband that we didn’t jam him into an activity because we thought it would be best.
It’s easy to think that we always know best as parents. To be truthful, we often do know better. It’s better to eat broccoli rather than skipping it for a cookie. It’s better to wash your hands with soap and water rather than wiping them on your pants. But when it comes to finding true joy, I’m so glad that I practiced patience and really listened to what my son was telling me.
Have you ever had to quiet your own thoughts and listen to what your child was saying? Was it easy? Or did you struggle?