Facing Parental Fear: Regrets, Failure and Quitting - Letting Our Kids Live Their Lives

Photo by pixabay

Photo by pixabay

One of my goals for parenting is to turn out into the world a couple of people who are "better" than me. One area I focus on a lot is confidence and taking "good" risks. I don't want to raise kids who hold themselves back, because I think that leads to regret.

I hope they don't fail, and I feel concerned if they want to quit something.

The truth is, however, that regret, failure and quitting are life's greatest teachers - and without experiencing them, many of us would not know the experience of moving on to something better, rethinking our life's choices and figuring out how to be resilient.

As a parent raising kids in a "high performing" suburban area, it's important to be mindful of this wisdom as my kids grow up. I have to take a reality check for myself and make sure that I'm ready to accept life as it comes, not only for myself but also as an example for my kids.

I don't expect my kids to be tops at everything, but I do ask for their best effort. It's important to finish what they start for the most part, too (the season, the performance schedule, etc.).

I am pleased for them that their involvement in sports and extracurriculars has brought fun memories, wonderful friendships and great relationships with coaches and directors and teachers, and has furthered their self-confidence.

Truth be told, sometimes the right thing to do IS to quit, however. I have tried to underscore that quitting isn't a bad thing, as long as there is a good reason for it. When they have quit something, it's been because a circumstance hasn't fit them, but I ask them to move on to one that does.

For my son, it's meant trying sports and instruments that seemed like the right thing when he started, but ultimately didn't keep his interest. Even though he was always called "extremely coachable" and a "natural athlete" and did a good job on the team, he wanted to explore other options. I personally felt bad when he moved on from a sport (hey, I liked hanging out with those parents on the sidelines!), especially when coaches (who were often are neighborhood friends) were concerned as to why he didn't want to continue.

It wasn't personal; he liked the coaches and his friends. He was curious about other sports or programs and felt

Photo by pixabay

Photo by Pixabay

compelled to try something else. Over the years he's tried numerous sports, from soccer to baseball to basketball to football to hockey, and now lacrosse. He has been through four different instruments, from piano to trumpet to guitar to percussion. Fortunately for him, he has narrowed it down to his favorites for the moment - football and hockey for his sports and is sticking with band playing bass and percussion as he looks to enter high school in the fall.

More often than not, my daughter has stuck with the same interests over the years. She still plays the same two instruments since third grade (piano and trombone), has stayed more or less with the same sport since 7th grade (running) and has only made minor adjustments to her interests (she did try marching band and basketball cheerleading Freshman year, though!). It works for her. I have cautioned her about staying with something just due to habit; my opinion is that she should stay with something she really likes because she believes it's the best thing for her. So far, she has felt her choices and staying with them have truly been the right choices for her.

I have not wanted her to experience the regret of not trying something out of her comfort zone, and have pushed her at times to try out for higher-level or specialty bands, or to pursue voice lessons to improve her singing - something she loves doing. She's thought about those options but has chosen not to. I didn't like her reasons; "I'm not good enough for that," "It's dorky and I don't want to," "I'm not sure what people will think of me if I'm too serious about music." To me, she's selling herself short - but that's my take on it, and I've expressed my feelings. It's her life to decide.

Against my advice, she chose to take on many honors courses this past fall and I felt it was too much at once; it WAS hard for her, but she scored a 4.0 this past semester - higher grades overall than she'd achieved at her at-grade level courses the previous two years in high school - so I supported her decision. She knows herself. This semester is tough because she has an additional honors course, and while she loves the subject, balancing it all is proving to be a hardship at times - it's been very stressful. She's hanging in there, and I'm proud of her, but I could understand if she'd chosen to drop a class. Her choice was to stick it out and I don't think she regrets it.

Someday, quitting something may be necessary. It could be the end of a journey for a particular job or even career path to do something else. Quitting could also mean the end of a toxic relationship or friendship (I hope they don't run into this, but they might).

It's nerve-wracking, this parenting gig. As a mother, my children felt like an extension of my own body as I carried them around inside of me for nine months. When they were born, there is this animal relationship with them - they are this dependent creature that still in some ways seems like an extension of oneself because even after birth, their every living moment is something you as the parent are responsible for.

This goes on for years...being responsible for all of their needs. Then there is that funny stage of teenage. Their independence is one step forward, and two steps back. Or vice-versa.

I now realize that to an extent, parenting doesn't ever really end - it just changes form as your child ages into young adulthood...then adulthood...and if we're lucky, we see middle age for them, and maybe beyond.

I think parents NEVER stop feeling for their kids, and human beings are always evolving, always changing, always needed to develop their resiliency.

Deep breath...it's time to let this beautiful thing called life unfold...for the kids, and myself as a witness to their lives.

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