Where’s the parenting manual?

I’ve experienced plenty of challenges through my 11 years of fatherhood. But, there is no doubt though that the good has far outweighed the bad. After completing a 5k road race with my So recently, one of the things I realized I struggle with the most really has nothing to do with my Son, but rather with me.

I hope I can safely say that all parents want the very best for their kids. As parents, we’ve experienced things that we want to share with our kids so that we can share that sense of accomplishment or feeling of elation that goes along with the experience.

My 11-year Son and I have done several road races together, all in the 3 – 4 mile range. I’m extremely proud of each one of them and very grateful that it is something we can do together. However, in every single race, I have an internal struggle of how much to push and how much to back off. Depending on the race distance and how much training he’s done, he’ll want to walk for portions of the race. In most cases I tell him “we’ll go at your pace buddy” and “you can walk whenever you feel like it”. Inside though, I’m torn up trying to figure out how much to push and tell him to dig through the aches and pains he might be feeling, versus when to just let him go at his own pace.

I’m sure there are some who will read this and think, the kid’s 11! Why push him at all! Maybe others think I should tell him not to walk at all and just find a way to deal with the pain.

I believe in the power of sport and competition for kids, when it has the healthy support of the parents and the adults involved in guiding the kids (as opposed to the parents that get thrown out of the crowd for harassing the officials). I think the social lessons of teamwork, and the internal lessons of goal setting and motivation are uniquely ingrained into the brain through sport and competition. As a parent, part of my role is to push him when he needs pushing, sometimes letting him fail when there may be a lesson to learn, and sometimes supporting him before he does fall.

And therein lies my struggle.

In which situations do you apply each role? I know there is no right answer, and I suppose that is part of the lessons we learn as parents. We need to struggle and fail as parents sometimes to learn how to be better parents. However, sometimes I think it would be nice if someone could write a step-by-step guide that is given to you as you leave the hospital.

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