I’m not going to lie; I was one of those people who felt a little sad that the XXX Summer Olympic Games came to a close. Besides that fact that I’m finding quality TV hard to come by these days (reality this, opinionated that), I was really enjoying the competition and the spirit of the games.
Now my third grader, the one who cheered on the US in their World Cup Qualifier against Antigua & Barbuda, guess which team he rallied around? Of course, the US. He was hard-pressed to recognize Usain Bolt’s supremacy on the track, eventually hailing him the best track athlete. (as if …)
And there were many teachable moments during the games. Take US Diver David Boudia’s gold-medal performance after going home empty-handed from Beijing four years ago. Perseverance and focus.
And, of course, Kirani James, the Grenadian who won the first gold medal for his country with a win in the men’s 400 metre. Capping his win with his 43.94 seconds dash was his sportsmanship, humility at the finish line, and the exchange of nametags with double amputee Oscar Pistorius from South Africa. Small island, big dream and hard work.
I was pointing all of that out to my third grader, and telling him how I’m certain that when they were losing and when training was tough and coaches were tougher, that Bolt, Boudia nor James threw in the towel.
But there I was, waxing lyrically, and there was my boy, listening and nodding at first. Then he threw his hands over his ears. Was I talking too much? Or maybe the stone hit its target.
You see, this summer he started camp enamored with sailing. After two semesters of the schools programme and Easter camp on the water, he was ready to strengthen his sea legs.
The boy quickly learned that fun camps lasting four days were just a way to break up the strict two-week certificate courses.
So a boy who was gung-ho in the beginning started having stomach aches and then started talking about how he really was tired and sailing wasn’t fun any more. The real issue was the he kept getting into irons, which means he was head to win with no forward motion. In other words, hard work and a sure fire way to lose a race at that level.
I kept telling him that quitting isn’t the way, and I insisted that attend rain or shine, “sick” or well.
The pride and the smile that accompanied the level two certificate seemed worth it. But it’s gotten me thinking: when is it okay for parents to let their kids quit activities?
How do you know when they have stopped having fun, stopped trying, or when there is a real issue. And what happens to those kids who start and quit a dozen things?
I honestly believe that, at the heart of it, parents want to give their kids every opportunity to excel. And with the proliferation of hand-held gadgets and gizmos and computerized activities, even schoolwork, it’s not so easy to get in the exercise and training that came as a rite of passage back in the day.
And there is also the element of planning for the future … I was talking to a mom the other day whose hopes for a full scholarship for her son to attend college are pinned to his swimming prowess.
And that plan is about to come to fruition. But it wasn’t happenstance. It took lessons and competitions and motivation and the ability to finance training and participation in said competitions and even the final year of high school abroad to align the stars.
Then there’s the confidence that comes from trying and then achieving on the field of play.
Take my big boy, for instance. He’s been going to soccer since age three, and truth be told, there was a long time when it didn’t look as if it mattered if Good Friday came on Easter Monday (and he wasn’t the only one). And then in recent weeks, I’ve noticed how they are finally getting it together.
Suddenly soccer has gone from being the activity that he did on a particular day, at a particular time, to being something he looks forward to doing.
But the question still stands. When is it okay to let a child quit an activity, and how do you know when you ought to let them ride it out? And if they are riding it out, for how long? What’s the point of departure?
And that’s why the Olympics were a timely and entertaining lesson. Here’s to hoping that they are stuck in long-term memory.