June 27, 2011


Me: Let me ask you a question.
Mia: Okay.
Me: Do you care if you win or lose at swimming?
Mia: Well, as long as I don't get below fourth place. I always want to get better than fourth place. So, I guess if I stay better than that, I don't really care.
Me: What I'm really trying to get at - in my weird, roundabout dad kinda way - is are you having fun?
Mia: Yeah. I'm having lots of fun.
Me: Because - and I really mean this - I don't care if you're first or last, I just want you to have fun.
Mia: Me too. I'm having fun.

I really do mean that. I never want to be one of those parents who push my kids into being more competitive than they need to be or, worse, doing things they couldn't care less about. I just want Mia to have fun. And I think she is.

Mia gets up early for swim practice without attitude (most of the time). And when it comes to competition, I truly don't believe she's nervous or feels any pressure. She just does it. She jumps in the pool, launches herself through the water and swims as if no one is watching. And what she did on Saturday was take second place in the backstroke, an event she's had a little trouble with in the past. We were amazed. She was amazed. It was a hundred shades of awesome.

I want her to have fun. But I also want her to succeed, to have some objective measure of success showing her how amazing she is.

Did you compete in anything as a kid?

Posted by Chris at June 27, 2011 8:12 AM

Not really. I was a band nerd, so were my oldest son and my daughter. Middle son was a band nerd too, but also did basketball and football. I never pushed, never put the emphasis on winning, my kids did their own thing. I was always amazed, angry, and disheartened at events for these kids watching some of the parents dress their kids down for not performing to their expectations, and some even hurled catcalls at the coaches. WTF? They're in SECOND GRADE and these coaches are dad/mom volunteers! This isn't the Rose Bowl we're sitting at...

Posted by: Julee at June 27, 2011 8:33 AM

Go Mia!

I'm right with you on not pushing too hard. I always tell my kids that I expect them to do the best they can do and as long as they are doing that last place is fine with me. I don't want them to be afraid to try new things because they are afraid they won't be "good" enough.

I played soccer and that was pretty much it. I was hard enough on myself, I didn't need any parental motivation!

Posted by: Elizabeth at June 27, 2011 8:36 AM

I played sports from age 5 all the way through high school, but I was never better than average at anything. Once I hit me teen years I lacked the willpower to practice enough to really get good at anything. My daughter's insane level of dedication with horses clearly comes from her mother's DNA. She was a national champion level baton twirler in high school.

Posted by: COD at June 27, 2011 8:37 AM

No I didn't. My mom was self-employed (owned a cafe) and she needed her kids for low wage help so that meant no extracurricular activities (until we were at least old enough to drive ourselves AFTER the cafe closed).

Unfortunately, I was bitter enough about it that I let my daughter participate in just about anything she wanted that we could afford. But that girl was good. I had a lot of fun watching her get to do what I wasn't allowed.

Posted by: daisy at June 27, 2011 8:47 AM

I had major push parents. I sang and they constantly forced the singing on me, including in front of large groups, which only made my fear worse. To this day, the only ones who hear me sing (in the car or at home, are my husband and daughter. (Someday if I have a grandchild I will sing to them!)
You are doing the right thing.

Posted by: Maribeth at June 27, 2011 9:22 AM

When I was little, I did both track sort of things and swimming. I was very competitive and in the same vein as Mia, I never did poorly so I was in that frame of mind; third, second or first was OK. But as I got a little older, I did start losing some but I looked at that as a challenge. It pushed me to be better but I still enjoyed it. That's why I am against how they give trophies/medals to kids just for participating. I feel like winners get a prize and "losers" get the push to do better. Wow, sorry for ranting about that!

Posted by: Claire at June 27, 2011 9:42 AM

My three kids do sports and dance competitively. I tell them that the day you can't smile coming off the field or stage is the day we will walk away from it. My kids put a lot of themselves into their sports and it's not worth the time if it is not fun. My eldest son lost his championship game Saturday partly due to three of the kids whose parents just happened to be the coaching staff went to Florida for a tournament with their "other" team. Great way to teach the concept of "team" huh. I have also had parents try to give me "ground rules" regarding dance competitions against their daughters. I just laugh and brush my shoulder off.

Posted by: greenie at June 27, 2011 10:08 AM

NOt only did my parent not "push" but they weren't very supportive either. I joined swimming, track , band, and basketball at various ties and ended up quitting them all because my parents weren't involved at all. I joined them all on my own out of my own interest, but it's hard to continue in those things when your parents don't see the importance of getting you to practice or meets.
I'm still kind of bitter about it.

With my own kids, I encourage them to TRY everything. You don't know what you will enjoy until you give it a try and constantly remind them that you need to practice and continue with something to become proficient in it. There are few people that are naturally gifted in things. If they join something they MUST see it through untl the end of a sesson. Once you become part of a team you can't leave them in the lurch mid season. My older son was never into athletics,music was his thing and we supported his band through high school and the summer after when they "toured" the east coast. All the parents chipped in to buy them a crummy run down van,lol. That was their last hurrah as they all went off to differentd colleges.

My younger son played basketball until 9th grade. We told him he needed to do SOMETHING if he was not going to play b-ball so he joined track and is now tying cross country. Turns out he loves both.

I do tend to push him a little more as he has a lot of potential but tends to be lazy and would probably sit in his room playing video games for the rest of his life if given the choice. He also recently tried golfing for the first time and found he's kind of good at it and likes playing. So we will encourage that and got him a set of used clubs. All his friends golf so its a great way to get him out of the house!

Posted by: Lisa at June 27, 2011 10:29 AM

I did swim team as a kid! I loved it and I never felt super competitive about it, either. I just loved to swim.

I got really excited if I placed well, but I was never mad if I didn't.

Swim meets were places to hang out with my friends, an excuse to eat Jell-O powder straight out of the box (good energy, doesn't weight you down) and I got to be in the swimming pool.

My parents would always let me get nachos or frito chili pie from the snack bar after the meet, too!

Honestly, swim team remains one of my best childhood memories! I think Mia is on the right track!!!

Posted by: Holly Reynolds at June 27, 2011 10:51 AM

i think my life would be easier...if i was a teeeny bit competetive..but im not...i never have been...luckily i was a cheerleader (shocking im sure) which was (& this might be shocking) a very "supportive" type of team sport...& i played tennis which was an individual sport...i rarely cared about winning i just wanted a great volley...

Posted by: suicide_blond at June 27, 2011 11:54 AM

Soccer was my sport until I was about 10. I was on a winning team, a losing team (like, no wins kind of losing), and two non-competitive teams, but I can't say I was much of a contributor to any of them. I had a knee condition that precluded running, so soccer wasn't really for me. I played softball once but hated playing right field all the time. I was GOOD at sports, but just couldn't make organized sports work for me. I saved my competitiveness for the classroom.

Posted by: Brooke at June 27, 2011 12:19 PM

I danced in a troupe where we had to audition for parts. It was super competitive. My parents encouraged me and supported me, but they never once pushed me.

I quit because of how competitive it was. It went from being "I absolutely love to dance" to being "no, I don't care that you rubbed on icy hot, wrapped your ankle and danced on point with it sprained. I'm not going to."

My oldest plays tennis, my youngest plays basketball. My oldest pushes himself harder than I want him to. My youngest requires some pushing, in the "you wanted to join, the team is counting on you, you must get up and we must go!" kind of way.

Posted by: Mindy at June 27, 2011 12:48 PM

SWIMMING!!! OMG. I started swimming when I was five at the local swim/racquet club when we moved to California. I moved from there to a US swim club when I was eight years old. I loved it but when I stopped loving it and kept doing it is when it became misery. I ended up swimming through college for over 14 years. I never get in the pool any more. Long story short as long as she is having a ball she will always be awesome at it!

Posted by: Christina at June 27, 2011 7:26 PM

I played softball for one lousy summer. I was horrible! Neither of my parents were athletic, but my dad sort of expected me to be something I wasn't. Later, I became a competitive runner. By then, he didn't care anymore.

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