Last week I was searching through my older writings, and I came upon an essay I had written for the This I Believe project on NPR. The way it worked was that anyone could send in an essay, and they would pick the best ones to be read upon the air by the author. They also solicited essays by famous people, but I found the ones written by the regular folk to be the most instructive.
In the end, my essay didn’t get picked, but discussing the topic with my wife and writing the essay provided great fodder for introspection. I enjoyed the experience and looking back, I see the challenges we had five years ago in regards to child raising haven’t changed much, just the content has. So I present to you, readers of TFDL, an essay on practice, which given my earlier posts, you won’t find at all surprising. I hope you enjoy…
I believe in the value of practice. I believe the most important lesson that any parent can know is that their children are capable of anything given the proper environment of love and instruction.
My older brother Andy was considered the best soccer player among us three boys. He was good enough that he could have played professionally had he wanted to do so. I thought he had been born with the ‘gift’ and that I, while a decent player, was never meant to be great. While I loved to play the game, I didn’t dare throw away my time developing my skills, because I could never become ‘great’.
It wasn’t until a few years later, when I would attend a camp run by a local soccer legend, Pat McBride, who had represented the U.S. both in the Olympics and World Cup, that my view on potential was challenged. His message on how to become a great soccer player was simple – you must touch the ball a million times and when you’ve reached that goal, do it again. This lesson reverberates within the stories of the world’s greatest athletes. Peter Gzowski, famed hockey writer, asked Wayne Gretzky if his greatness came from practice, he replied, “Absolutely. That’s one-hundred percent right. It’s all practice.”
I also believe parents that think that their children are forever defined by the genetics they were born with could not be further from the truth. We humans have a limitless potential that even the most starry-eyed dreamers have yet to conceive, and I believe that through the hard work of practice we can begin to ascend to the heavens of our potential.
I have two children now which we are trying to raise to enjoy practice. My wife and I hope we are bringing them up in an loving environment that allows failure, as a way to learn, rewards hard work and provides examples in our own behavior. So far, this has been a challenging experience. Occasionally, we’re rewarded with a kindly comment from a teacher who tells us that they enjoyed our children in their class, but most days we’re chasing them back to the piano, to the soccer field, or to do their homework.
There is so much we don’t know about parenting: how to motivate a three year old, when to be firm and when to let them go their way, how to keep it fun and interesting, and deciding if we’re pushing too hard. There is no guide book to tell us how to do these things, and some days we’re acting only on parental instinct, but in the end, I think we’ll get better, if we keep practicing.