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Parents, Do We Have All the Answers? by Cara Pollard

 

As parents we want to set goals for our children. We want them to achieve success, get good grades, commit to volunteer work, get the job or into school they desire, and participate in sports or extra curricular activities. We have aspirations of helping them to manage it all and pave a path for them to follow. We set markers and figure out ways to help them reach these goals. We devise plans and we ask a set of typical questions to begin the orchestration. We ask why we need to accomplish the goal, how we will do so, what we can do, where to do it, or when we will do it. When in fact, those answers often don’t get answered from the get go, and perhaps they shouldn’t.

Being mindful and knowing what our intentions are is more important than having the answer to all the questions. It’s also more sustainable and allows for a feeling of success. We erroneously think we are the parent so we need to figure it out and they need to follow suit. Its just not true.

The answers to those questions often reveal themselves along the way. If we are aware and observant we notice them and they come forth more quickly, perhaps easily and can be very surprising. That’s because awareness and openness invite creativity which allows for movement and growth. We can accomplish this simply by listening to ourselves or more importantly, listening to our children.

For instance, my own daughter is a basketball player. She’s played since she was very young and loves the sport. In high school she started to play year round and joined a wonderful travel basketball team in addition to her high school’s team. However, she also wanted to play a different sport for the Fall and Spring seasons. We all know doubling up on sports in one season can overwhelm a teenager and their parents. But my daughter was able to manage the extra sport with basketball, and other commitments such a volunteering, working, getting good grades, etc. We thought she was doing a fine job. Until she wasn’t. When she started looking ahead to Spring of her sophomore year she had a hard time deciding to join the spring travel basketball team again. She said yes to registering and within a week said she wanted to quit the team. She was just too overwhelmed to manage it all. I thought, “What? Quit? No Way. This is her identity.” I felt that pervasive cultural pressure, as a parent, to not allow a child to become a quitter. My Grandma’s sing song voice was in head and I pictured her raising her fist in the air and shouting, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

I was resisting what my daughter intuitively knew was right for her because I was worried what others would think and I was questioning if quitting was right for her. I asked, HOW would she keep up with her teammates on the Varsity team if she didn’t get the extra training? I asked, WHEN would she have the time to practice on her own? I asked, WHY was she doing this? Was she losing herself? and WHAT would the very kind and supportive director of the organization think?  WHERE would this decision take her? Didn’t she want to continue playing?

I often advise parents to not overwhelm their teens so the real question was, why was I doing that very thing? As a parent coach, this was also a stark revelation for me. My husband knew she was very sad about this decision but she was also resolute. She just knew joining wasn’t right for her. He supported the decision better than I did because I was spiraling, I was catastrophizing the outcome to her decision and boy was I wrong to do so.

Not playing for travel basketball team opened space for a whole new opportunity for her that was very surprising. She joined the soccer team in spring and kept up with the obligations of that sport. She also took an elective, an in school- dance class that I suggested she try.

At first she didn’t like the suggestion. She looked at me like I was from outerspace. She said she was terrible at dance and couldn’t possibly enroll. I told her it might be good for her because there might be a yoga or stretching component to it and she could get it in during class time. She agreed and decided to register. After the first few classes she came home and declared she was the absolute worse one in the class and didn’t like it at all. She complained for a few classes but then she began asking us to watch her dance routines. She practiced them over and over as part of her homework and asked for our feedback. She had so much fun reworking the steps and trying to hone her form etc. By the middle of the semester I really think she loved it. She told me as the class progressed she might not be able to keep up. I reminded her about how much fun she had practicing her dances routines and preparing at home. The last half the semester the class offered a teaching component to it. A few times she taught class at two Elementary schools. She absolutely loved it. Her dance instructor noticed that she made connections with the kids and she seemed to really be skilled at teaching so she encouraged her to apply for camp counselor at a summer camp. She got the job for the entire summer. She loved the kids and she was so committed to preparing lesson plans and again worked hard to make the class great not only for herself, but for the students.

She enjoyed it so much at the end of summer she asked me what I thought of her continuing teaching. She wanted to keep it up during the school year but she didn’t know how. She decided to discuss with her teacher who connected her to a Director of Outreach and she started and created a program called Uptown Moves. She teaches kids from her own school and a neighborhood in Chicago, this free dance program every other Sunday morning. It’s filled with kids from all different cultural backgrounds and most of her students are boys. She gets so much joy from teaching them and learning all about their personalities.

She continues to work hard at making it a great class by implementing new lessons etc. She also noticed that some classes might have some extra space so she thought of asking kids from her grade school to participate. Uptown Moves just keeps evolving.

She also still plays basketball for her high school team and at one of her biggest games held at a college gym she had a cheering section. A few of her 4-year-old students were yelling from the stands. “There’s our dance teacher, Number 10. Go Miss K, Go Number 10.”

The growth and openness allowed her to take a path I never could have conceived of or predict. She learned something entirely new and it spiraled up from there. If she had also joined travel basketball team she never would have had the time to work on dances from her class.

We try as parents to control so many aspects of our kids lives because we feel we know what’s best for them. We are experienced and think we can answer, the how, what, why, where, and when questions. Actually our kids often know for themselves and when we control, contour and manipulate we constrict their growth mindset.

We need teach our children to follow their inner voice, not to resist it, and certainly not to question it. When we commit to being more open minded as parents the how’s and whys, the when, where and what, will fall into place. We simply need to have the intention that they find their path and their way. We know relating to people and connecting is what matters most to us as human beings. If we also have that as the intention, we naturally become more amenable to the concept of just simply BEING an aware parent. The answers to all those questions may shift along the way, depending on our kids. It will have to, because of the immense change we face every moment, of every day. If I had pretzeled and constrained my daughter’s own knowing she may have been ok but the growth she experienced by following her own path, by attuning to her own needs was enormous. She learned so many lessons. She made a tough decision and it allowed for space, space to learn something new and build from it. We didn’t know the way it would turn out. We didn’t know the how, what, when, or why but it worked and worked very well.

About the Author – 

Cara Pollard is a PCI Certified Parent Coach® and Educator. She teaches both parents and children how to bring joy into their lives through consciousness, awareness, music, movement, creativity and self care. She coaches individual parents, couples, and teens to determine ways to intentionally create their preferred future. She conducts workshops and support groups for parents on a variety of topics including conscious parenting and work life balance. She teaches children classes and partners with schools and organizations. She facilitates book clubs and family activities to enhance mindfulness and social- emotional learning.