Reflecting on priorities of family & work
This past weekend I plunked down an insane amount of money for fencing gear for my just-turned 9 year-old son. This continues our journey of trying to find his sport – or at least a sport he can enjoy and keep him active. He/we suffered through single seasons of soccer, basketball, and t-ball; he earned 3 or 4 belts in Tae Twon Do before growing bored; we’ve dragged him grudgingly to swim team practice and meets for three summers (mostly to ensure water safety) and he claims he won’t this summer even if we try and make him; he’s in his second year of gymnastics with interest waning fast. Enter fencing. I don’t know why he asked to do fencing (maybe it stems from watching wand duels in Harry Potter or sword fighting on Wii Sports Resort), but we latched onto it – especially since there is a fencing gym 3 blocks from where our daughter ice skates – and a class at almost the same exact time. How convenient!!
After 3 sessions, the boy seems hooked. He looks forward to it and has joy in his fencing mask shrouded eyes for the entire hour of each lesson. He claims he is going to fence through high school. We’re hoping for an Ivy League scholarship, but may be jumping ahead. We’re really just hoping we found his athletic passion.
During his first lesson (he’s on the left) What if we didn’t? What if after 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years he tires of it and wants to quit? What if the initial investment in equipment and on-going investment in classes along with our time end in his desire to try something else – or try nothing at all? How will we react as parents? Will our decisions impact him and how he persists in the world for years to come? How do you balance the relentless pursuit of joy with the need to persist through the mundane?
I’ve often wondered about Millennials in the workforce. The research shows that they typically move from job to job every couple of years, particularly when they feel bored and/or have nothing more to learn. I also remember that as a principal during the early to mid-2000’s that there was less of an expectation from parents to make their kids “stick it out” in their activities and even with their classes. Parents wanted to allow their kids to switch their courses well after a drop deadline for reasons as simple as, “he/she is just not feeling it anymore”. Is there a correlation? Did parents in the 90’s let their kids quit too often and did that produce one of the major characterizations of the Millennial generation?
I don’t know the answers and doing some quick Internet research didn’t find one for me. There are lots of articles about the traits of Millennials in the workforce, but I haven’t found any that explore the psychology of why and the impact of parenting on their participation in the workforce.
Some may ask why are we pushing sports on a boy who just may not like sports in the first place. I don’t think it’s due to my enjoyment of playing and watching sports and wanting the same for my son – that ship sailed a long time ago; rather, it’s a belief in the lessons that sports teach us around discipline, teamwork, health and fitness, sportsmanship, et. al. that we carry with us for life. We have a belief that there are three A’s that lead to a well-rounded education – Academics, Athletics, and Arts – and want our kids to have success or at least try hard in all three.
So, fencing. I’m hoping his idea that he’ll be fencing through high school sticks and his interest never wanes. But what if it does? Unlike the other sports, this is one I am going to push him a bit to persist through if need be and not just because of the financial commitment. He’s old enough to understand commitment and discipline and the importance of seeing through an investment (time and money). My son ain’t no quitter and he needs to learn that it is not ok to quit just because he’s bored. To be fair to him, he’s been taking piano lessons for 3 years and practices mostly on his own, so he has an understanding of discipline when intrinsically motivated. What about when the motivation is not there? That’s when discipline is far more difficult.
How do you handle this as parents? What about in the workforce? Do you hire people who move jobs every year or two?