practicing parenting: allowing mistakes
Not long ago, I had a good lesson on practicing what I preach. And it was really hard.
My middle son (age 11) is a dramatic one. He loves goofing around, speaking in funny voices, and even dressing up upon occasion. He’s always dreamed of being an actor. I have no idea whether he’d be good at it, but I do know he would have a blast.
But he doesn’t like to be pressured. He wants to know exactly what to expect. And the most important thing in the world right now? His friends. Of course, that’s the nature of 6th grade: those other tweens know so much more about the real world–at least what’s cool or interesting– than mom does. If mom thinks it’s cool, it’s most likely not. That’s probably my fatal flaw.
When the opportunity of the all-school play arose, I was sure he’d want to join. This isn’t a dweeby activity–the annual play at our middle school is a huge event. Everyone who makes the commitment is accepted, and last year, almost 200 kids danced and sang their way through Bye Bye Birdie. The community support for this gig is unbelievable. My son saw the production and clearly announced he wanted to join as soon as he could.
That was before he started talking to his new 6th grade friends. Most haven’t experienced any of these productions, so they rejected the idea of putting themselves out there. What self-respecting 6th grade boy would do such a thing?
Except we all knew this activity was perfect for this 6th grade boy. That is, everyone but my son knew it, and the unknown is to be avoided at all costs.
So despite much encouragement, haranguing, pressure and bargaining, he dug his heels in deep. I finally remembered to follow my own parenting advice: let him make the choice. If I forced him to do it, he’d probably keep arguing about every rehearsal. The battle between us would continue, and he’d have a hard time enjoying the process on his own. We’ve learned this the hard way on other matters, and sometimes I’m slow to learn.
So we let him choose. He’s not doing the play this year, and he doesn’t have to be in the shadow of his big brother (which probably was part of the issue). He’s got two more years to see if he’s interested, and if he does, he’ll throw his whole self into it. (And he’ll love it, mom knows!)
I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when the decision was made, and I’m fine with it now. I love my kid for sticking to his convictions. But I really hope he chooses to do it next year.