My youngest child has a vehement disdain for few things in life. He’s usually got a song in his heart and hums a tune while building with LEGOs or battling with the foam LightSabers (no relation, no endorsement$) against his brother. Nobody gets excited about the little joys of life than he does. At 4 years old, upon getting a cookie when we thought we didn’t have any, he shouted in his slightly abrasive boy-voice, “BOO-YAH! WE GOT REAL COOKIES FOR OUR FACES!” He “gets” joy. He lives to play, and learns a LOT while he does, usually with his older brother and the kids of-ages in between his and his brother’s (26 months older).
His disdain is saved for just a couple things. Anything that involves slow movements with smaller kids is going to get stiff-armed. He wants action and progress and commotion. I get it. He’s tried a few sports like tee-ball and soccer and karate. When he was interested in karate he was greatly involved. Jumping and punching and blocking. Then he got tired of it and wouldn’t participate.
Here’s where some people say “Well take his butt out there on the mats and make him stay or there’s no cookie tonight!” First off, thanks, that might work. Second, shut up. Most parents try that, more than twice. It might work. But eventually you spend half a session goading your kid into doing something, then they MIGHT do it with no enthusiasm just for a cookie. And oh, you still pay full price for the session, so your bank account is the only thing getting kicked in the crotch. So maybe there’s a correlation building between defiance, half-assed performance, and reward. That’s not something I want my kids to understand until they get a job in Corporate Middle-Management.
This past weekend I quit, too. I quit pushing him to do something he obviously doesn’t want to, resists attempting, and gets angry about being involved in. I quit. And it was glorious. Handing that oversized t-shirt back to the coach and saying “Not this year, coach. Maybe when he’s 5 or 6. Have a good one, thanks for your effort!” was like a cloudy day after weeks of back-sweat-inducing heat. The stress was gone, THE STRESS WAS GONE. From all of us. He lightened up, my wife lightened up, and we get 2 hours of our Saturdays back for the next 8 weeks.
Again, he’s not yet 5 years old. There weren’t any teams for under-5’s when I was growing up. I wanted to play so bad by the time I was 6 that I slept in my uniform the night before any weekend game. So if he doesn’t want to perfect his side-arm to first base, his foot placement on a basic front-kick, or changing direction mid-dribble on the pitch, THAT’S FINE. I can’t make him love any sport. He’ll find what he wants to do and we’ll help build bridges and paths to those goals. A wise man told me “You sometimes have to just pour the bucket out and follow the stream it creates.” So we poured it out. He doesn’t love soccer at 5. That’s okay. There’s a lot of time left to get a sleeve of tattoos and learn to scream and flop when somebody gets too close to you. As long as he doesn’t embarrass me.