Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Past Deadline: To Follow Through or Admit Defeat

Still more evidence that parenting is not for the weak. Perth Courier, Tuesday, June 30/09.

To follow through or admit defeat?

Here is a story about follow through. It involves a young boy we know but would never dare name because, well, he can read.

This boy is not very sporty. (Some folks would say schporty.) He runs and jumps and frolics and plays, but when it comes to stuff like hockey and other organized team sports, he doesn’t seem very much inclined. He’s more of a one-on-one kind of player. Perhaps he’ll be a chess master.

Anyway, last summer the boy’s parents signed him up for soccer. He had tried T-ball the year before and it went reasonably well, but he expressed an interest in soccer, so they gave it a try. It did not go smoothly. There was much whining and moping and dragging of heels. There was a definite lack of enthusiasm for playing, which was viral enough to infect the family. The mom and dad did not look forward to the twice-weekly participation because it involved constant prodding and cajoling. The weird thing is he’s not terrible at soccer. He’s a gangly kid – lots of arms and legs – but he does a pretty good job.

Anyway, last year the parents were big on following through. “You’ve got to finish something you’ve started,” they said. The grandparents stood around watching the whiny kid throughout the season. In the end he finished more-or-less happily and collected his medal and his hot dog. The team photo adorns his room.

This year in the spring when the topic of summer activities arose, the boy was asked whether he would prefer soccer or baseball. The mom was sure he’d pick T-ball – revert back to that sport where he could wallop the ball hard like he does in the backyard. Without hesitation, though, he said he wanted to play soccer.

“You do?”


The mom nearly fell out of her chair. Good heavens, would they be in for another summer of cajoling and whining? “Are you sure?”


“Really sure?”


Hm. So when the season began, the family unit dutifully collected the soccer regalia and adorned the shirt and trucked the water bottle and so on. They cautiously perched along the sidelines and braced for the whining. It didn’t come the first night nor the second. The boy happily participated in every drill and all the games, except on Tuesday nights for a few weeks when he was finishing up swimming lessons and could only stay for half of his soccer session.

Week three was great. Week four was great. Then came week five. Week five was not great.

The boy put on the brakes. He didn’t want to go, and when he got there, he didn’t want to stay. Abruptly, he left the field. He no longer wanted to play. He didn’t like soccer.

What!? Extensive interviews were conducted. Was it the coach? No. The kids? No. The heat? No. Well, what was it?

“I just don’t like it.”

Nearby, another spectator proclaimed loudly to an acquaintance that the kid should be made to play. “You’ve got to teach them to follow through,” she said.

The boy’s mom wilted. She had spent the entire season last year teaching follow through. No one was more surprised than she was that the boy even wanted to try soccer again, and despite the fact the joy of the sport lasted this year just long enough to miss the refund deadline, she really wasn’t overly surprised it had come to this.

“I want to keep taking swimming lessons,” the boy said. “I like swimming. I promise I’ll do it all the way through. I won’t quit.”

And he does like swimming. No cajoling or whining was involved with swimming, and it happens to be a convenient life skill. And yet, there’s this whole follow through thing. What to do, what to do.

Ultimately the defeated parents, perhaps selfishly, chose to avoid another summer of forcing the kid to play a sport he’s just not in love with. Rather than risk ruining soccer for him forever, they’ll take the hit. At least they get to keep the shirt.

And so help that boy if he tries to get out of finishing swimming lessons….


meno said...

Sometimes you just change your mind. He gave it a good try.

momma's heart said...

I agree with Meno. Why not sample different sports for a couple years, and then when he chooses one or two, have him follow through on those. Once he knows what he likes, he can work on developing a life-long exercise habit.

I hate the way team sports take up so much family time. Three times a week seems like a lot. With young kids, the emphasis should be on learning new physical skills, getting exercise and practicing good sportsmanship. Not winning games.

Many would disagree with me, I'm sure.

Steph said...

Meno and Pam, you make good sense. Several moms I've talked to echo your thoughts. Kids change their minds. You try to teach them to follow through but, darn it, if something's gonna make them barf, don't eat it.