All kinds of fun you can have this year…
If your kids are playing a sport this fall (and you’ll be watching them), here are some things to remember. If you’ll be coaching, I’ve got some ideas there too.
“The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.”
David Foster Wallace
Those words are from Wallace’s commencement speech given in 2005. The entire text is one of the most moving (and inspiring) things I’ve ever read (especially knowing that Wallace ultimately lost his internal war with depression). It’s about 3000 words — maybe a 15-minute read.
I can’t tell you who spoke at my college graduation. Nothing against them, I’m sure it was me. Had Wallace been our speaker and given the same talk, I probably would have missed it because of my attitude at the time. (I wonder how many of those students heard and thought about what Wallace said that day.)
We have just over 3 million college degrees being given out this year in the U.S. I’m assuming (hoping) that the largest portion of them will start working and contributing to the needs of our world (people). I hope they’re Smovers.
At the same time, I hope we (the grown-ups?) remember to encourage them to do what’s right, work hard, and care. They’ll need it (though they might not want it) and it’s our job as grown-ups.
Below are my 3 favorite commencement speeches. Pass one or all of them along to someone who’s graduating (this year or 3 years from now). Help them become more aware… earlier. Make sure you read them first (you might find Wallace’s to be too harsh). Then be sure to follow up. Sit down and ask them what they think. Then listen. Then have a conversation.
This Is Water : David Foster Wallace, Writer
Find What You Love : Steve Jobs, Apple Inc. Cofounder
The Love of Learning : David McCullough, Writer and lecturer
I’ve been coaching recreational kid’s soccer for about 10 years. For the last 5 years or so, I’ve had a couple teams each season. I still make my share of mistakes (attitude mistakes and coaching errors) but I’ve got some thoughts for parents of kids under the age of 16 (this is for rec ball). It might work for parents of older kids but I don’t have personal experience with that yet. I’m guessing these might apply to other sports too.
During the game…
- Say nothing unless it’s completely positive. Your players don’t need remarks of disappointment while they’re working. “What are you doooooing, Bobby?” is not positive.
- Let the coach guide the players. In the heat of the match, a kid is going to have a tough time figuring out who to listen to (and it’s not you).
- Remember you chose the recreational league because your player probably isn’t the next Beckham (or you didn’t want to invest all that time and money). S/he might be, but then you’d be in a travel or an advanced league and this advice wouldn’t be for you (although if you’re in a travel league, feel free to ratchet back your anger and intensity if you feel it coming on… it’s not a great example to set and it fuels the bad attitudes and sportsmanship we’re increasingly seeing on the fields).
- Enjoy that your child is trying, competing, and getting a solid workout.
After the game… Reinforce the importance of effort and acknowledge any bright spots. If there were any bad attitude moments (for your player), ask if they think they could have done anything better during the game and then listen without giving advice. If you had any bad attitude moments, apologize (it sets a good example).
If you’re a new rec coach (or a coach who hasn’t had a great deal of success – define that how you’d like) and you’re interested, here’s what’s worked for me…
OMG. I can’t LOL seem to LIKE stay focused ROFL on anything LIKE or anyone LMAO. Oh. Meh. Geh. Text meh. Seriousleh. LIKE. Don’t call meh. Text meh. Seriousleh.
Say something to a teen this week (even if they’re in their 30s).
(TGIS: thank God it’s Smonday)
Poem by Taylor Mali.
We’re deep in the middle of parenting (although on the grand timeline, it’s probably still the beginning as Robard points out in this clip from Parenthood) and a blow out the weekend before last had us thinking (again)…
What can we do to make things better?
This is what we came up with…
- We can model the behavior we hope our kids will model.
- We can give them unscripted thoughtful responses to challenges (instead of knee jerk scripted ‘because our grandparents told our parents because I said so’ responses).
- We can pepper it with a limited amount direction (mostly safety issues… probably ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ reminders, too) so they learn resourcefulness and resilience (rather than entitlement and an inability to recover).
That first point is probably 90% of it (and the hairiest).
The Spaniard and I can be ego-driven hot heads at times (mostly me) and we think that’s probably the biggest thing that gets in the way of our efforts. So…
For 90 days, we’ve committed to No Ego Parenting.
It’s been about 10 days and seems to be having a positive impact (less stress, everyone appears happier and a little kinder). The biggest challenge so far is sticking to the ‘no ego’ in how we talk (softer spoken, less edge, no interrupting because we want resolution faster, less direction because we know what’s right because that’s the way it’s always been done and I don’t have time to wait for you to figure it out because I’m in a rush to get somewhere so I can be busy and in a rush to get to the next place).
Our accountability check… If one of us catches the other crossing what seems to be the ego line (even slightly), the other is allowed to say “Put your hands up” and the ego line crosser has to put both hands up immediately (reaching into the sky) and say “Put your hands up” in the same high-pitched voice as Amy Poehler’s Michael Jackson imitation below (try to have an ego when you’re doing that).
The kids have already put this into the family vernacular as a way to communicate someone’s doing something wrong.
I can tell you that the past 10 days have been better but it’s not easy. Which is okay, of course. We’re trying to improve things.