Eventually We Reach a Point Where It’s Time to Just Cheer Them On
I am at a point in my life where being a cheerleader is a primary parenting role. Now this may conjure up some pretty funny images (I abandoned the appropriate age and body type in the 80s), but nonetheless, it is an apt description. There is little hands-on parenting for me to do on a day-to-day basis; for the most part, I’m done. Except of course, for the cheerleading.
I have certainly done my share of cheering on the sidelines – baseball, softball, basketball, soccer games, band and color guard competitions, curtain calls on the stage (I think they can pick my voice out, judging from the smile or grimace I see on their faces), but what I am really referring to is much more subtle.
I came to this realization while waiting for the conclusion of a voice lesson. My son was preparing for an important audition and this is one area that I am woefully inadequate to be of any help. I was feeling bad about my shortcomings, then it occurred to me that it might be for the best. What he really needed from me was not instruction, but support. Since I know almost nothing about how to coach someone to sing, I cannot over-coach or nag while trying to be helpful. All I can do is provide love and emotional support and do my best to reduce the stress.
In some areas of my children’s lives, I know I have been too helpful. With things that I know how to do well, my intentions were good – I wanted to share my knowledge and experience and help my kids improve. But, perhaps that is not what they needed from me. I have seen frustration on their faces when I have gotten over-involved and too “helpful.” I guess in some cases, I should leave things to the experts (even if I am also an expert in the area) and just be Mom.
It is a tough line to walk, trying to figure out when and how much to help our children. We want them to succeed, but have to recognize that failure is a part of learning. Many lessons are best learned through making mistakes. (Having said that, as a parent, I want those mistakes to be little ones, so the impact is minimal.) Our children also need to learn to be independent. They need to go out into the world confident that they can succeed and make a difference. Our goal of course is to help them to learn to care for themselves and maybe someday, our grandchildren.
My kids have accused me of lying. They think I sometimes tell them they are great at something because I am Mom and that is what I am supposed to do. The latter part of this is a valid, but I don’t lie. As Mom, yes, I think my kids are amazing, but I also acknowledge that they may not be amazing at everything. My own parents did a very good job at teaching me to be truthful, so out-and-out lying is something I am simply incapable of doing. As a side note, I don’t want my kids to be hurt or made fun of. In that respect, it would be irresponsible of me to encourage them in pursuits that they are just not good at. So, if I tell them they are “good” at something, then they should believe me.
Personally, I never aspired to be a cheerleader. It was one of those girly things with the girly outfits that I vowed as a child to never, ever participate in. In addition, I knew a couple cheerleaders who were not so nice to others (this is where stereotypes come from) and did not want to be associated with them. [Note: as I got older, I was blessed to know some charming, thoughtful, smart young women who also happened to be cheerleaders.]
At some point, we have to resign ourselves to the sidelines – cheering, encouraging, and drawing attention to successes. At this point, my kids don’t need my “mothering” in the common sense. They are fully capable of handling their own basic needs. Fortunately, they still welcome my support. I do think my kids are amazing, but that is because they are, not just because I am Mom. I marvel on a regular basis that I had a hand in creating these four terrific people that are so much fun to be with.
Pondering this idea further, maybe I should have started the cheering earlier. Maybe I could have helped them reach (my) little goals even sooner. Think of the motivation: P-I-C , K-U-P, Y-O-U-R, TOYS! P-I-C , K-U-P, Y-O-U-R, CLOTHES!
Imagine the eye rolls.
On second thought, maybe not.