Thursday, July 29, 2010

SpongeDaddy MeanyPants

So, I received several great comments and an inbox full of email on this subject. It was an almost unanimous verdict. Everyone seems to feel as though we should simply let Sydney do whatever she wants to do. Let her be a kid. Let her make her own decisions.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Okay, maybe that is a little strong (it was more for effect). In all honesty, I have no problem letting Sydney make her own decisions. In fact, that is a major part of this whole child rearing thing. Isn't that one of our biggest goals as parents - to teach our children how to make good decisions? Sure it is. And, if you are going to learn to make good decisions you have to practice, don't you? I get that. Let her decide.

My only caveat is that, in helping a child learn to make decisions, you have to ensure that they are evaluating all of the issues. You want to make sure they understand the impact of their decision that they consider all of the available information.

But, in reality, making a decision was not really the issue with Sydney. That had nothing to do with my disappointment. My disappointment was with her rationale. It was her rationale that was in direct contrast with everything we as Dungans (atleast Lynley and Mark Dungans) believe in. It was her rationale that failed to take anything into consideration outside of her immediate want and need.

She did not want to do it because she did not want to work hard at it. She just wanted to have fun and play with Ainsley. That was the only thing that she was considering. She was in a bad mood because her mother took her out of gymnastics 5 minutes early to get geared up for Tae Kwon Do. This was just like the practice before when she got mad because we made her get up off of the couch after watching an hour of mind melting cartoons to get ready for practice. She was angry because she would rather just laze around than do something productive. How dare we mess up her entire summer by asking her to go to practice for an hour?

(Before I get a flurry of nasty grams, yes, I also understand that this is summer and it should be fun and relaxing for them. However, 2 or 3 hours of practice per week isn't really going to disrupt that. It is good for them physically and mentally. So, in this case, I want to keep that fact in perspective. From the over-scheduled, over-pressured standpoint we really aren't being that tough on her. 2 or 3 practices a week is not going to destroy her summer.)

I would love to just lay around to. I would love to just stay at home and play with the kids all day. Why? Because it is fun. I would rather play golf, go to the movies, and spend the rest of the afternoon in the pool. I don't do that though because there is a cost of making those decision. If I don't work I don't get to feed my family or pay our utilities. Soon enough we would be without a house or food. That is a consequence of the decision.

You see, Sydney, was not considering anything but what she wanted at that moment. She did not consider (not even for a millisecond) all of the things that she loved about being on the team and participating in Tae Kwon Do. (Yes, I said the things that she loves about Tae Kwon Do - not me.) In fact, some of the happiest moments I have ever seen Sydney experience have been in Tae Kwon Do. Have you ever seen true pride in your child's eyes? I am sure you have and I know you have not forgotten because it is one of the most incredible gifts in life to a parent. Sydney has received that gift through Tae Kwon Do. Sydney has also had the opportunity to travel the country through sport. That was her doing and those are life experiences that she earned through her hard work. Oh, and fun, she has had her fair share of that as well. In fact, some of her best times have occurred with her friends on team. Those are all warm and fuzzy reasons but there have been tougher things she has accomplished as well. She has learned to deal with her fears and learned how to overcome them. She has learned how to trust herself and to believe in herself. In short, Tae Kwon Do has brought her a lot that she was not considering in her decision. And, let's not forget the fact that


Sydney was given a few days to think about her decision. On Tuesday I spent about 15 minutes with her talking about it and letting her know that she was capable of making her own decision. I told her why I was disappointed. I also told her that whether she chose Tae Kwon Do or something else that I would expect her to work hard at it. Because, as I explained, it is from the hard work that all of the rewards come. Furthermore, I reassured her that she could do whatever she wanted to do and we would not be mad at her. I also reiterated that my only caveat was that not wanting to work hard has not an acceptable reason for her to quit. She needed to consider everything - good, bad and ugly.

We tried to make this as low pressure for her as possible. I did not want her to choose Tae Kwon Do because she thought it would make her mother or I happy. I wanted her to feel free to make the decision that she thought was best for her - the one that made her the happiest in both the short and long term. I made that absolutely clear to her.

Last night at practice she made her decision.

What was it?

If I tell you that she wants to work really hard at something she loves and she wants to give it her all, does it really matter what she chose?

Not in my book. As far as I am concerned she made the right decision.

It is all about purpose.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Mark. My daughter was quite ill as a child and everyone always wanted to let her do what she wanted because "she has already been through so much." Everyone needs a purpose. I am all for letting my kids be kids, but they also need to have something other to do than lay around being lazy. That doesn't teach them anything about being productive members of society. There is a time for play, but kids also need to learn that, as members of a family, and society, that they have responsibilities, too. They can't go around quitting everything just because they want to spend all of their time having fun. How will they ever learn to hold down a job?!

Debi Bowden said...

I had "the fourth grade rule" in our house for athletics and other activities. The fourth grade rule is that my husband and I pick different sports/activities for the kids..they are not allowed to quit them..the rationale behind the fourth grade rule is do not know what they really enjoy until they reach a certain age. My son hated soccer practices but liked the games..he would complain and asked to quit numerous times..guess what..he is a sophomore in high school..was the first freshman to play varsity for the high school..he is also in the school band..plays football..involved in the school daughter does cheerleading..plays basketball..editor of the junior high newspaper..and both are high honor students...I firmly believe in my fourth grade rule..Debi the Social Worker