Ninety percent of the time, my son is awesome, and I tell him that he is awesome in specific and concrete terms. I do praise his general awesomeness as well, but I don’t want my praise to be empty words of affection without real meaning.
If he’s worked hard at something with a “meh” result, I praise that too. Our own personal awesome might be a different level than someone else’s.
In this case, he gets a “meh” result because he hasn’t put in the work. He knows it, and I know it. I used to nag–remind him to do what he had to, but it just made him avoid it more. He told me that I was making it worse, and not better, so I said I would keep my mouth shut.
By and large, I have. Where I draw the line, however, is when he seems mystified by his lack of progress, or blames the universe for his issues. Whether it is wise or not, I feel compelled to set him straight.
I’d love for him to succeed at his endeavors, but the activity itself holds no emotional value for me. It could be a sport, or an instrument or a hobby. I am agnostic to the interest itself as long as it’s not illegal or immoral, and I feel no stake in the outcome other than I want him to be happy. What I do care about is accountability.
Itzhak Perlman says if he misses practicing one day, God knows. Two days, he knows, Three days, the audience knows. But he doesn’t blame the violin, the concert hall, the conductor or the audience. He knows that even the best of us can’t skate by.
We all make choices about where to invest our time. So own it. That’s all I ask. If he hasn’t put the time in, and complains about not doing well while blaming the cosmos for his disappointment, I’m going to call him on it. No path is endlessly uphill, nor can the wind always be blowing against you. Sometimes you’ve got to walk faster and climb harder.
I suppose it’s not easy to do when your mother is making you admit that it’s your own damn fault. Even if she’s right. It also doesn’t help that my personal strategy is to throw myself at my challenges until I’m either battered or victorious–sometimes both. Perhaps that’s how I parent as well, so I guess I have to accept that his unhappiness with this aspect of our relationship is my own damn fault.
He has a point. Accountability sucks. You’re awesome, dude. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Least of all me.
Words by J. B. Everett