Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pushing the oldest kid

What is it about the oldest child? The first born. They seem to share these stereotypical characteristics; wanting to please, good in school or sports, responsible, etc. Dare I generalize?

Is it just the kids? Maybe but probably not. I have a theory. I think it is the parents and how hard we push our first offspring.

I have watched hovering but loving parents push a violin on a 3 year old who could barely talk. Sure, they were opening up opportunities for their child. But, come on! I have seen kids buckle into stressed out tears at performances while the parents stand pinched lipped nearby.

I have seen parents push their oldest so hard at sports that it is embarrassing to see them at the games. You know these parents; the ones who don't act like it is a game. The ones yelling the loudest, talking trash about the other team. The kids who cry when they lose and are inconsolable. Maybe because they know there will be a long discussion about how they could play better next time or what they did wrong on the way home? I am not talking about high school kids, I am talking little elementary school kids.

We know of extremely talented high school athletes that won't play their sport anymore. They are burned out. They were pushed too hard. Played to competitively, too early. It wasn't fun anymore and they rebelled. There goes that athletic scholarship that mom and dad had been banking on.

And, there is plenty of pushing academically too. I remember a whole subsection of parents being mad at the school because Kindergarten wasn't rigorous enough. How rigorous should Kindergarten be?

And, at the Math is Cool competition, kids that didn't do well shed real tears too. Both parents and kids were crushed. Not a happy ride home after that.

One 5 year old we know is skipping over Kindergarten and doing a unprecidented 1st grade/Kindergarten. Hm. Not sure how that works. Pushing your kid from preschool to first grade. First child? You bet. Who is that for really? Where does parental ego stop and what is best for the kid begin? How will that kid like being the shortest, youngest kid in his grade when he is in, say, 5th grade? Was pushing him to 1st grade when he was 5 worth it? Only time will tell.

I told Molly about this kid. She asked if I think I pushed her too hard. I suppose I did to some degree. I suppose we can't help it. It is only when the next one comes along that you realize how hard you pushed. I asked her if she thought I pushed her too hard. She said no but I would like to ask her again when she is 15, 20, 25 or 30.

I told her I wondered about the wisdom of even pushing the violin on a 5 year old. She reminded me that she begged us for 2 years to take lessons. If she hadn't we probably would not have started her. Why? Because violin is the hardest instrument to learn to play and I didn't want to set her up for failure. I tried to talk her into piano!

See? That is the other side of this same coin. We want our first to fly high! For their glory and our own. The next kid? Maybe we realize by then, that they are who they are. With encouragement they will make their own leaps. That pushing too much is, well, too much. It can backfire and the guilt is all encompassing.

Jake has a story about his dad. When he was born, his dad asked the oldest son, 12 year old Danny, what he should do different with the new baby boy. He said, "Don't push so hard, Dad." Ouch.

We are all trying the best we can.


Anonymous said...

I have commeneted in your Blog about sports before and truly understand the parent Pressure issue, I am a product of way to much pressure for the sport I loved, (Baseball) I had played up through my Junior year in a select program (I hated the coaches at the high school plus most of the boys were really not that good) and the summer of what would be my senior year do to spending most of my time since 1st grade on a baseball diamond (My mom being the loudest person in the crowd and in a tone she thought supportive but was very far from supportive)I vowed my senior year was my own, do I have some regrets not playing ball my senior year, yes in some way but in others no I had a great girlfriend who I hung out with. The hard thing is to notice or understand if you are pushing to hard and having your child really give you the clues because they do not necisarily have the knowledge you are pushing to hard because they always have been. I treated my sone what I thought was different than me, I did not yell at games or give the speech on the way home, but in someway he felt we pushed him to hard at his sport to the point he has no desire (Like my blog to you also has said he is a stud even if he is my son in the center field natural athlete) I am not sure where or how I or my wife pressed him to hard was it his own personal push because of trying to compare himself to what I had been? I told him many times he was way beyond me and that we loved watching him play. Was it his coaches that were assoaciated with the UW and had been gromming him since he was 12 to play at the UW, Was it the travel to all the games around the US, was it the love for prescription drugs?. He has not played organized baseball in a year and finally this weekend at a NA group softball picked up a mitt and a bat and hit a home run and called me and said "Dad that felt really good", I asked him if he wants to continue with softball when he gets home instead of baseball and he said he might just give it a try. Our second boy we are trying very hard to not pressure to let him right his own ticket for sports (He loves Basketball it is like fingers on a chalk board for me but I am supportive) and has decided that Basketball and football are his passion and does not want to play baseball any longer. This has been my 1st year in 12 years not standing in or near a dug out, hearing the leather on the mitt and the crack of the bat and it is tough (Hard to explain the full whys). It is about the kids and the memorys we give them that forms how they see the world now and as adults. You keep up the love for your kids but you need to also be the adult and see the hidden words that your kids will not tell you when you ask them "Am I pressing to hard on you", take it from a person who has had a lot of time to think about the how, what whys. take Care!

Shea's Mom said...

That was some lucky girlfriend you had in your senior year.



Thanks for your story.

Carol said...

It's tough - we did NOT push our oldest to try out for the high school basketball team and now I think maybe we "should" have pushed a bit. He wants to try next year as a junior and we're all behind that.

Holly Nappi Collins said...

Good post. I am sure quite a few parents can benefit from reading this one....

Anonymous said...

I personally think I was the lucky one to find her, I would not be where I am now professionaly without her plus would have never learned how to make my own pizzas!
Take Care

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