My son is racing on his school cyclocross team this fall. While he’s been cycling for a few years, this is his first time racing, and first time racing ‘cross. He’s been participating in some kind of sport since he was 5 or 6, but it isn’t until racing cyclocross that I’ve seen him take giant steps from being a boy to becoming a man.
My wife and I have strongly encouraged (almost to the point of forcing him) to participate in sports since he was barely able to walk because we believe so strongly that over the course of his lifetime this participation will serve him far more than he can understand now. He’s currently 14 and I’m guessing like many parents of teenagers there is a common perception that their son or daughter is complacent and too many times taking the easy route. I know in many ways that’s the way I was as a 14-year old and in some instances I see this with my own son.
However, what I also see, thanks to the sport of cyclocross, is that he is learning how to suffer. And I say that in the most positive way possible. I see him pushing himself in what is a very challenging sport and digging deeper than I’ve ever seen, to the point where he has felt sick to his stomach after some races from the effort he put out. Maybe that makes me a bad parent to encourage that type of effort and be happy in some ways to see him suffering, but I know from personal experience that he will have a more fulling life as a result of having these experiences at such an impressionable age.
Part of the reason my wife and I have so strongly encouraged his participation in sport is to help teach and reinforce the trait of perseverance. How does he react when he thinks he can’t go any harder or push himself any further, yet of his own accord finds the internal drive to push that extra bit further or go just a little bit harder. It’s these single moments in time we want to give him internal points of reference to access not only while he’s racing bikes, but when he’s facing challenging parts of his life outside of sport.
As much as we don’t want to see our kids suffer, we are learning as parents that giving them a chance to experience that struggle will benefit them in the long run.