It hasn’t been the easiest summer for my family. We have gotten through some stressful things together that I’ll discuss another time. I am going to start with some really good news. After years and years of my son asking us to play football, we finally gave in and said he could join the high school JV football team. I can’t believe that Seth and I agreed that he could play football. We said no for a long time. It was time to let go and let Max try something new that he has always wanted to do. We did let him play flag football and that counts as some football experience. The JV practices are every day except Sunday for hours, and he gets ready super early and is raring to go. He is excited to go, and he is having a great time. I am so thankful, and this is what I like to see. It is obvious that he has the passion and zest for this. He has come alive in a way that I haven’t seen in a while. I am so proud of Max. I’m so happy every time he tells me how much he is enjoying football.
After many weeks of theater this summer my middle child Ella has been taking a little break. She can’t wait for theater to start up again. Now for my little one. It has not been an easy summer with her. She made a commitment that I spent a good deal of the summer dragging her to. As a mother of multiple children, I am sure that you understand that I can barely get them all where they need to go on time without adding a fight on top of it. I was losing my patience, and I have a lot of patience. I was also feeling mentally and physically exhausted.
After every practice she was telling me she wanted to quit, followed by tears. I kept telling her to keep going and give it a try. I kept encouraging her and reassuring her. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed some more. I was getting more and more frustrated with the situation.
When your child is good at something, sometimes you don’t understand why they wouldn’t want to do it. I asked a lot of questions to try to understand what the issues were. The issues kept building and I felt like I was fighting a losing battle. You ask yourself how much should I push her? You ask yourself if this is about me or her?
I pushed along and kept telling Lillie that I wasn’t going to discuss quitting. I felt like she made a commitment and is good at it, so keep going. I felt like I was in it, and Lillie wasn’t, and it was becoming this big thing. We have this thing in our culture that we don’t want our kids to be quitters, but then I started to reframe it in my head.
“Why It’s Okay – Even Wise – to Let your Child Quit,” an article in Psychology today by Susan Newman Ph.D. says that, “There’s a misconception that quitting is cowardly, but when you insist that your children stick with an activity that makes them miserable, you may inadvertently teach them to stay in a bad situation.” I know that I want to teach my children to get themselves out of situations that don’t work for them. I want them to be successful adults who are committed to their marriage, children and career. I also want my kids to feel in control of their life.
My youngest daughter went to middle school orientation tonight. The fabulous assistant principal was talking to Lillie and asking her about her summer activity. Lillie bashfully told her that she wasn’t doing it. I saw the AP quickly read Lillie and tell her how proud she was of her. That was a mother talking knowing exactly what to say to Lillie. I want her to be able to speak up for herself and tell me what’s upsetting her. I want her to be able to tell me if something isn’t working for her. She was learning self-respect much earlier than I did. Isn’t this one of my goals for my kids?
I interviewed Dr. Robyne Hanley-Defoe, a resiliency expert. She explained in the interview that when our children find something that they love and are passionate for that there is an intrinsic zest for it. They run to the activity like my son ran to football today. He is loving it. My daughter Ella runs to theater. That is what we want for our kids. I knew that dragging Lillie was not how it was supposed to look, and I was done resisting what needed to happen.
I have these incredible instincts that I don’t always listen to. Sometimes I push them down. Sometimes I hide from them. I try to convince myself otherwise. If we really listen to our instincts, we know what needs to be done. I knew that it wasn’t going well. I knew how much we tried. I knew how much this was affecting us. It was time. It was time to let Lillie take care of herself. Sometimes it isn’t about anyone else. Sometimes it is about you. We have to take care of ourselves, and we have to take care of our kids. We will always be the best advocate for our child.
I will tell you, as a very busy mother, I think a huge commitment that takes a lot of time from my family needs to be something that my kids love. I would tell you that I would help Max anyway I could in the journey of his love for football. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. I would help Ella in anyway that I could in her theater journey. She would do theater all day every day, if she was allowed to get rid of school and do that. Intrinsic love! Not, dragging my child to something crying.
I was in a six-year relationship before my husband Seth. I was reading about when you know it is time to break up with someone. I knew it was time but for some reason I wasn’t admitting it. The book explained something so simple to me. It said to keep track of how you feel every day in the relationship. Were you happy? Sad? Stressed? Angry? I found that every day I was marking down tears. If something is making you cry on a daily basis, then it isn’t the right situation for you. It was definitely overdue for me to break up with that boyfriend. It was overdue for Lillie to break up with her activity.
My fifteen plus years of parenting have taught me so much and will continue to do so. I look forward to continuing to learn and grow with my children. What I have learned on this particular journey is that quitting was what was needed for my mental sanity and for Lillie’s.
I hope that your children are all in activities that they love. If they aren’t, I hope they all find their passion.
Laughing, Loving, Learning,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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