One of the things I struggle with as a parent is knowing when I should push my children and when I should back off. I can't speak for mothers out there, but my guess is that some of the dads who are reading this might identify with this dilemma, particularly with regards to sports. I could never be that stereotypical Little League dad who screams at his kid when he strikes out, but I admit that I have high expectations for my daughter, and it can sometimes be hard to watch when I don't feel like she's living up to those expectations.
Before you think I actually am that Little League father, let me explain. Because Alison has shown that she has a talent for basketball, and because she enjoys playing it, I want her to give her best effort during every practice and every game. Notice that I don't say that I want her to be the best player on the court -- even though I secretly do -- I just want to her to work hard at it. But because she's ten years old, she doesn't always work hard.
A while ago I spoke with author Norman Ollestad about his recent book, Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival, and we touched on this issue. Here's a snippet of our conversation:
BTB: It’s interesting because this is something that, as parents, I think a lot of us struggle with. My daughter is nine years old. She plays basketball, and she has played for quite a while. She enjoys it, I enjoy coaching her. The battle we’re having right now is that I think she can be a lot better than she is. I think she has potential long term to be a good player, and like you said, to enjoy it because she’s good at it. So you wonder, do you push her, and maybe turn her off to it, or do you let her just go out there and play if she likes it. Does she have to be good at it? Where do you draw that line as a parent?
Ollestad: It’s a completely imperfect science. I don’t think anybody knows. Some people talk about it all the time and write books about it, but that’s a joke. Nobody knows how to do anything. You don’t know. You’ve gotta go on instinct, you’ve gotta go on how your child is reacting to it. I think part of the advantage my father had is he wasn’t thinking about that stuff. He just assumed it was good, because ultimately it was good. It was healthy. As I got better, I did start to enjoy it more, and he knew I would. I don’t think he contemplated it. He was a 50s guy, born in ’35.
BTB: They didn’t think about their parenting.
Ollestad: They just did it. And luckily, as opposed to the other male figure, who wasn’t thinking about it either, luckily my father had a loving presentation, a loving natural way. He was always kissing me, very affectionate. He was always telling me I could do it. He never once said, oh, you gotta win, or you gotta be the best. That never came up. That was his whole trip. It wasn’t about that. It was just about doing it. Get out there! Things will happen, you’ll find out about yourself. Not that succinctly thought out, but that’s, I think, underneath what he was getting at.
I don't have an answer to this question, but I promise that if I ever figure it out, my loyal readers will be the first to know. (And if you've got the answer already, don't hesitate to share...)
If you'd like to read the rest of the interview, you can find it at Behind-The-Book.com, a site I created a while ago to catalog the various author interviews I've done for different websites over the last few years. Aside from the Ollestad piece, the interviews are all sports related, but I promise greater variety in the months to come. Stop by and take a look if you've got the time.