Tagged with "hurt"
19 Dec
2017
Posted in: parenting
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Recognizing My Selfish Parenting

The second day of high school our freshman came home declaring he was going to be a U.S. history teacher. No more engineering or business degree for him. Ninety minutes with his freshman history teacher had changed his life course, or maybe not. He could easily be a professional musician, or coach, or a street performer. The later has crept into conversations ever since a trip to Key West.

Four months of high school has taught me that we are fully immersed in a phase of parenting much different than any we’ve been through to this point. He’s changing, both physically and socially, and redefining who he is and where he wants to fit. More than ever I see our role as parents as guides through this process. We don’t want him to veer into choppy water with illicit behavior and friends that aren’t good influences, but I want him to chart his own course free of what his family and others expect him to do.

In August, a friend told me to prepare for him to “lose his mind.” I thought she was referring to the three worst things I could think of like drugs, alcohol and sex. It’s happening on a much smaller scale that I wouldn’t even notice if I hadn’t given birth and lived with the child for 15 years. There’s a shift in his growing up. It hasn’t been a bad thing, but it’s definitely a THING.

Little things have morphed over the last few months: the clothes he chooses to wear (lots of khaki and black in his closet), his friends have expanded to include new faces (some who are seniors), there’s a wider array of music coming from his bedroom (not necessarily a bad thing), and he thinks more critically about topics but also has most definitely come to the sarcastic side with his mom. The biggest change came halfway through football season. He casually mentioned one day that he wanted to try wrestling and not play basketball. Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention. I wrote it of as spending too much time with lineman who are also wrestlers. He’d never wrestled, but had been playing basketball for years.

American flag hanging over a wrestling mat

The wrestling thing never went away. He clearly had no desire to play basketball. It was wrestling or no winter sport. I found the idea of no winter sport more appealing. The child had never wrestled…EVER. Our exposure to wrestling amounted to watching one match on ESPN two years ago. We’d never even been to a wrestling dual or tournament. We knew absolutely zilch. Even in my sports reporting days, I never covered wrestling. The child had lost his mind.

The germophobe in me tried to dissuade him with a list of communal skin infections he’d be exposed to at practice and meets. He wasn’t grossed out.  I shared my fears about becoming weight obsessed. He shared with me information on what and how he planned to eat. I reminded him that he was likely to not do well. He reminded me there are worse things than losing. He could get hurt. That other person is trying to get you to fully submit. He asked how this was different than football.

Upperclassmen football players gently tried to convince me to allow him to wrestle. Numerous coaches and friends who were former wrestlers joined the pro-wrestling movement. Our son didn’t push, beg or throw a fit. He gave us his reasons for wanting to change sports and left us to decide.

All of my excuses covered the one I didn’t want to verbalize. I like basketball. I wanted to watch him play basketball. I had made this about him taking something from me. I would never sit in his high school gym and watch him score on a fast break. I am selfish. His life is not mine. He’s never lacked confidence when trying new things. I didn’t want to watch him fail. I didn’t want to watch his struggle to learn a sport and compete with people who have been wrestling for a decade. I didn’t want to put together the shattered ego. I didn’t want him to take the hard route when he could just do what he’s always done. I have much to learn in parenting. He wasn’t afraid. He knew it would be difficult. He knew it would take work. He wanted to do it anyway.

So, we have a wrestler. I sit on a different bleacher hoping he doesn’t get pinned. He enjoys teaching us what he’s learned. I’ve enjoyed diving into this mysterious sport to support him with his new love, even if the intensity of some matches makes my stomach roll. Success is slow coming, but losing hasn’t changed his desire to learn and grow.

We’ve faced backlash from friends: “How could we let him quit basketball? He could have been so good. What a waste of height. He’s going to regret it. You can’t let him do whatever he wants.” I’ve heard it all. I gently remind most that our kids are not us. His life is his to lead with me to guide him along the way. A few people I’ve had to remind that he didn’t become a drug dealer. He simply shifted how he saw himself. He’s not a basketball player. He’s a wrestler. Maybe he’s not a chemical engineer. Maybe he’s a history teacher. Maybe he’ll continue to play an instrument. Maybe he’ll decide to stop.

I’ve learned loads in the four months we’ve had a student in high school. Most importantly, my parenting skills have been refined. He’s not a baby that needs his mama present all the time. I don’t need to know what he does during the day, although I really wish I did know. This is the part in the journey where we really let out the reins. We’ve laid the groundwork and now we see what he does with it. The letting go is officially the most difficult part of parenting. I won’t mold his life into what I want it to be. I’ll help him to make his life what he wants it to be, even if that means he doesn’t shoot free throws.


 
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