As much as my daily existence seems to consist of the repetitious acts of house-cleaning, clothes cleaning, purchasing needed items, cooking, feeding, transporting to and from… periodically, I am reminded that one of my main jobs as a parent is to take the long view. Let me share some examples.
Saturday morning, Emily and I went to run/walk a 5k (3.1 mile) race. (This is part of our larger goal of running 5 – 5ks, and 6 – 6.2 mile or 10k races over the course of six weekends, in honor of my 56th birthday. I know it sounds nuts. But I have a history of celebrating my birthdays, since I turned 40, with athletic challenges related to my number of birthdays.) Sunday, we were scheduled to run a 10k, the 4th of 11 races.
On the way to the race, Emily commented that she was going hiking that afternoon with her friend, Sean. Hmmm. I thought to myself: “That might be okay if Emily was not struggling in these races. But she is. She needs to rest her legs.” I diplomatically, of course, suggested she might be taking on too much. After all, the doctor we saw this past week had diagnosed Emily’s leg ailment as “overuse.”
A few months ago, Emily had asked if I would train for a half marathon (13.1 miles) with her. We had done this before. This time, Emily wanted to run a race in another state, and we selected a half marathon in Nashville. However, as our training runs increased in length, Emily began to complain about her chest hurting. I got her in to see a doctor who diagnosed her pain as inflammation around the breastbone. The doctor suggested she take Ibuprofen on a regular basis to reduce the inflammation. In response to this health condition, I suggested to Emily that we switch to shorter distance races, and the new plan for celebrating my 56th birthday was hatched.
We began our racing adventure last weekend. However, within the first mile of the first 10k, Emily’s legs began to hurt. She persisted and finished the race with a lot of walking. The same thing happened the following day in the first mile of our second race, a 5k. I took her to an urgent care clinic, followed by a visit to the regular doctor. She was told to stop running for a week and rest her legs. Yet, Emily didn’t want to abandon our program. So, here we were on Saturday morning, running again.
Emily did better this Saturday – less leg pain, less walking. But I worried about Sunday. She might overuse her legs with too much hiking and set herself up for a struggle in the next race. It’s my job to worry about about her health and to warn her of dangers.
K.J., as a second semester junior, is beginning the process of identifying colleges he may be interested in. He groans about it. He groans about taking the SAT and the ACT. He is much better about completing his schoolwork now than he was even a year ago. But it takes constant reminding that his grades this year really do matter. John and I remind him to put more effort in, to produce work product at a higher level. It’s not about “passing.” It’s about getting As and Bs – mostly As. It’s my job to see the forest when K.J. can only see the damnable tree in front of him.
Skye is in a homeschool group now. It’s what she wanted – fewer class hours, but more independent work. She does pretty well when she gets to class. But getting her to class is still an issue. She doesn’t fully understand that showing up is part of what is required, that not showing up will affect her grades and her future. I hate our battles, but I have to be the one who insists on the “big picture.”
Journey is overwhelmed. She has been involved in five plays with long rehearsals this year, in addition to swim team practices. She has dyslexia, which makes learning harder and slower. So, she has fallen behind in her schoolwork. Her teachers and advisor have been great about helping her come up with a plan to get caught up. But, Journey is still of the mindset that she will not go to her current school next year. Instead, she wants to attend our local public high school. She doesn’t realize that her struggles will not disappear in a new, different setting. In fact, they may increase. I’m making the case that, if she persists, she will get more support and a better education in her current school. John and I do not yet know if we will be successful in convincing Journey, but we continue the conversation.
Becton is a natural when it comes to dancing; and others have praised his skills. He thinks that he can be successful without training because of his imagination and talents. To some extent, his natural abilities give him a leg up. But I am aware that he needs training too. He needs to take classes, learn the language of dance, and put in the long hours of practice to reach his long-term goal of being a dancer. I have to be the one to insist that he obtain this discipline.
Kids are wired to live in the here and now. Parents set goals and provide the structure for kids to reach those goals. But sometimes we are at odds with each other. Sometimes what THEY want is not what WE want. I don’t like conflict. I’m more of a live-and-let-live kind of person. But I’ve made many mistakes letting my children chart their own courses. Some parents take the other extreme and insist on THEIR goals at the expense of their children’s different goals. It’s a balancing act, for sure. But I’ve come to realize that the pain I endure because of the conflict is just part of good parenting.
I must tell Emily to rest her legs or she will not be pain-free in the next race. I must oversee K.J.’s efforts and insist that he do more. I must get Skye to class whether she wants to go or not. I must present the likely outcome of going to a different school to Journey (but be her advocate and biggest supporter whichever school she attends). I must keep taking Becton to classes he doesn’t think he needs. In the end, they will make their own decisions and reap the benefits or suffer the consequences. But it’s my job to take the long view until they can do it for themselves.