Realizations of a Teen Dad

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Posted by webmaster | Posted in Miscellaneous | Posted on 24-09-2010

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I’ve realized a couple of benefits from the kids being in sports that I never hear anybody talk about.  I realized the first benefits when I was watching my son wrestle in junior high school.  He used to talk to me about how he felt awkward at times in class; that sometimes he felt lost like he couldn’t keep up and that, in turn, made him feel different than the other kids.

When he joined wrestling, however, things changed.  He learned discipline because he had to keep his grades up in order to participate with the team.  Being on a team creates an environment of camaraderie, a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood (yes, there are female wrestlers now), and he didn’t want to lose that.

My son’s self esteem rose along with this camaraderie.  He was part of an effort where others relied on him to do his job so they could win as the sum of a team effort.  He seemed more at ease with himself, and when he got on the mat, he was more prepared as time went by.

As a wrestler myself when I was in high school, I was excited to see him compete.  As soon as he got his first win, he realized how powerful he was and, in turn, so did I.  This is when I first realized he was growing up.  He was throwing 160 pound opponents around like dolls.  This also explained why my neck hurt when he used to hug me goodnight when he was three years old!  I felt pride when he got a point taken away because he virtually body slammed an opponent (not knowing this was against the rules).  Blame it on the WWE.  My son was growing up before my eyes.

Now, my youngest daughter plays field hockey in high school.  She’s in her third year and a real leader on the field.  She coaches the rookies on the team while the game is in play, backs up her teammates when mistakes are made, and never gives up when she lets the opponent move past her.

When a game is over and her team has won, the girls get together in a big circle and turn on the music.  They chose Shakira’s Waka Waka song (the song she was asked to write for World Cup Soccer this past year) as their celebration dance.  My daughter doesn’t like to dance publicly, but being part of a team makes you do things you wouldn’t normally do under normal circumstances.  The adrenalin is rushing and there she was, dancing with her teammates and coach on an open field with people all around watching them.  And she was enjoying it.  She may not have been the most enthusiastic of all the team members, but she was feeling free and liberated.

My daughter was growing up.  I realized she’s a leader when she wants to be, has to be.  She has the ability to let go of her fears when she feels she can and when the environment is safe.  And her smile is just as big as it was when she was three years old.

Sports has all kinds of benefits for teens.  I would be amiss to not point out that camaraderie has a downside as well, like everything else.  There is pressure to recognize each other wherever you are and to participate together in functions outside of the sport, like parties where alcohol and drugs are involved.  A characteristic of high school, not just camaraderie created by sports.  It’s a strong thing because it fills the need every student wants desperately to fill – the need to belong and fit in.

Watching the kids develop through sports gave me confidence that they were learning important life lessons they would be able to use when they were out on their own.  Life experiences they could draw from.  A realization that there were lessons out there that could be taught to them by others – other than their parents.  And that’s a good realization!

Remembering

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Posted by webmaster | Posted in Miscellaneous | Posted on 31-07-2010

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Remembering.  Everybody knows what it is.  The fact is you have remembered what remembering is.  It sounds simple enough.  We do it for work.  We remember what tasks we need to accomplish for the day, for the week, for the month.  We remember what time it is each year that we start praying for that pay increase.  At home, we remember when to eat, when to shower, when to clean the house.  Well, we remember we need to clean, but we don’t always get it done on time…

And so it seems that something we do every day on a routine and non-routine basis should be simple enough to do when it comes to our children.  So why do we find it so easy to forget what it was like to be them?  What it was like to be told to clean our rooms and as we are putting away those toys we played with two weeks ago, we begin to play with them again – only to be yelled at to ‘stop playing’ around.

If there’s one thing I know about high school, it’s that I’ve heard so many teens tell me they wish their lives could be simple again.  Like when they were kids.

The pressures of high school are nothing like they were when we went to school.  The game is different and played with much higher stakes.  And every year, those stakes keep rising.  The pressures to take drugs and drink alcohol are kids play compared to the pressures to join gangs, to perform absurd sexual acts you can’t imagine, and even to commit acts of violent crime to ‘prove your worthy’.  Some of these are actions you can never come back from without years of therapy.

Each year, everything seems to just keep escalating.  Reality television and teen programming just continues to push the limits and it seems nothing is really sacred anymore.  My teens are aware of everything going on around them.  They have given in to some and asserted themselves against some of them.  And they have all said to me at one time or another that they wish their lives could be simple again.

Getting away together - camping at Memorial Park.

There are a lot of things you can do to slow the escalation down.  I had a talk with my daughters when they were younger that they could play with Barbies for as long as they wanted to – even if it was in the privacy of their own bedroom.  I had a talk with my son about the value of respect when it came to dating and that he didn’t have to control his girlfriend just because the other guys were doing it.

Megan licks frosting while her bestie Barney looks on.

All you have to do is reach back into your memory banks and remember.  Remember what it was like for you when you were a child.  Remember those things that you cherished doing, even to this day.  Allow your children to get dirty, to mimic the things that you do, to share what makes them happy with you.  Sit down and play with them.  They’ll never forget it and neither will you.

And maybe, just maybe, we can put the brakes on the escalation that exists in our culture today.  It’s not too late and you just may enjoy being a kid again with them.  You just have to remember – it’s the simple things.