Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Winner Takes All

According to my stats page, I have nine followers.  I don't know who they are and if I do have followers, it's probably by accident.  I'm sorry if you are putting up with my aimless rants but I am grateful!  I feel like blogging is such a nebulous thing - there is a form to it but I wasn't taught it in school.  I'm never sure how a post should be put together and truly, I'm writing more for me than for someone else.  Sometimes, the words need to pour out and my hand gets less sore when I type than when I write.  If you are here and actually reading this, thank you for your patience.

Pk skates at our town skating club.  It's a fairly small club, especially when you get past the younger levels.  There are lots of "Canskaters" but when you get to the "Starskaters", the classes get much smaller.  We have great coaches (who also coach at larger and more competitive clubs) so I don't feel like we are missing out.  There isn't too much pressure on the kids and the girls really support each other.  I've been grateful that somewhere, for once, there doesn't seem to be the same pressure to be the best.

The other day, I was chatting to one of the mothers there.  She's someone that I really like and someone who I have commiserated with on the challenges of parenting on several occasions.  We started talking on the growth planned for communities close to ours (although, thankfully, our town is in designated Green Belt, agricultural land, so our immediate area won't be changing).  She expressed that our club is going to need to grow to meet the population demand.  She said that she had been talking to someone who had been a national figure skater for a while and had asked him what he thought about our club.  His response was that it was, "a good recreational club."  She expressed to me that this was such a terrible criticism and that our club was going to have to get more competitive.  I wanted to cry.  Why???

I think that the biggest shock of my life happened when Pk was born.  Normal, rational people, women who had been lovely all along, suddenly became promoters for their children.  Their children were always outstanding - potty training, sleeping through the night, talking, eating... whatever it was, their children were exceptional.  I was stunned.  For a people like me who has always struggled with inadequacy, the constant, ongoing competition totally made me want to hide.  I won't lie, at times, the sense of needing to keep up has made me a parent that I am not proud of and has made me see my kids with eyes that I don't want to have.

I liken it a bit to our dog experiences.  I grew up as a dog lover.  We had a Brittany, Flora, and I adored her more than words can ever express.  She was my best friend, my almost constant companion, my one-dog cheering committee who was always in my corner, no matter how much I had messed up or how awful I was being.  When she died, I was absolutely devastated.  She was a piece of me and I missed her more than I can say.  When it came time for Dh and I to get a dog, we decided to get another Brittany.  Long story short, the breeder would only sell us a puppy if we would agree to show it.  Before I knew it, we had been sucked into dog shows, field work and obedience competition.  Everything was about being the best and beating everyone else.  I knew that people were constantly looking at our beautiful Chelsea girl and cataloguing her faults.  At times, I did it, too.  I always saw her through the lens of measuring.  I looked back at photos of Flora and all I could see was how imperfect she was in terms of what she was supposed to be.  My view had totally changed and instead of just seeing the beautiful heart of the dog, I saw her flaws and how she didn't measure up.

I feel like parenting has been that way for me.  Maybe it is just the people around me but with only a few exceptions, I feel like many of those around me are constantly evaluating and cataloguing their kids.  There are the friends with whom I can't have a conversation that doesn't include either how bored this children are at school because they are just so bright, the number of goals the child has scored in hockey in the last little bit, the comment the teacher made about how exceptional the child is or the immense talent that the child has in music/athletics/karate/reading, etc., etc., etc.  It makes me feel so inadequate and as if my children are useless.  I know I should just ignore it all and let it go away but I am not good at that.  I've really been spending a lot of time praying to see my kids through God's eyes and to see who they are and build them up, rather than trying to fit them into perfect little boxes.  I am finding, more and more, especially as Pk gets older, that I don't want her to do things for ribbons, medals or prizes.  I want her to have the chance to do something because she loves it or because she is learning from it or because it fits with who she is.  I don't want to be measuring and anyway, whose measuring stick are we using?  There is only one child who can be the best in each competition, does that mean that all the others don't matter?

I don't know whether anyone else struggles with this or see it, but I am beginning to think that we are not doing our kids any favours.  Yes, they will play piano beautifully and/or be able to outskate everyone and/or be able to boast that they have report cards full of A's and/or spell every word ever written but truly, does that make them any happier?  Does that make them more valuable members of their families, better contributors to their communities?

It's time to stop putting so much pressure on our kids and to TRULY (and not just give lip service to) appreciate who they are, their gifts and talents and flaws.  They need to be allowed NOT to win the medal, not to get the ribbon but to enjoy themselves and try their bests and that needs to be seen as having its own value. 

I don't have all the answers and I am the first to say that my type-A, need-to-prove-myself mentality struggles with this.  I just hope that we can see what we are doing to our kids with all of this pressure and ease off before we create a generate that doesn't know joy in anything.

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