Saturday, May 9, 2015

Look at Him

The last few times I have taken my sons to swim team practice, a disturbing thing has happened.

As my oldest swims laps with his team, I take my two youngest to swim at the other end of the Olympic sized pool.  Swimming lessons are happening there for 3 and 4 year olds. We try to stay out of the way by splashing and playing quietly but the parents have begun to notice my three year old's ability to swim.

As their child is floundering with the kick board, concentrating with all their hearts and minds to get it right, my son is jumping and diving down to the bottom to grab rings or whatever else I throw in the water.  The parents keep one eye on their kid and the other on mine, silently comparing.  "How old is he?" they ask.  
"He's three," I tell them.
"He's a really good swimmer," they say with a fear I have come to recognize as, "oh no...my kid is not measuring up!!!"
"Thank you.  He just really loves the water.  Your son is really working hard.  He'll be swimming like this in no time!" I will say to reassure the worried parent.  But they are not satisfied quite yet.  
They turn to their child and say, "Do you see him swim?  He's 3, just like you.   When are you going to be able to swim like that?  You'd better keep working!"  Satisfied, they sit back in their chair hoping for better results.

This has happened five times.  The interaction almost always follows that script.  Are these people bad parents?  Not at all.  I think their motivation is only to have their child succeed. They are worried about their children falling behind in any way and so they are constantly on the look out for what milestone their children should be reaching.  I have certainly felt that fear as I watched another child doing something better than my own. 

But what do our children hear when we say such things? They hear that they aren't good enough.  They hear that they need to be better to earn our love.  Even though our intention is to give them a leg up, we are actually eroding their confidence.  Kids are supposed to try an entire myriad of activities before they know what they are actually good at, right? I know that I am still discovering new challenges to conquer and I am in my 30's.  

I read a beautiful verse the other day about each of us being fearfully and wonderfully made.  God created each of our children, His children, with their own unique set of talents.  Not all of us are made to be Olympic swimmers or Fortune 500 CEOs or renowned artists but sometimes I think we want our kids to be all those things in one.  They will feel that pressure from us if we aren't careful.  They need to know that they are made perfectly in His sight and in ours.  That is truly the only thing that will help them succeed.

Do you ever worry that your child is not measuring up? How can you let your children know that they are unique and beautiful creations of God?

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