I have a confession. I am a pushy mom. There, I admitted it, now let me explain why.
Many years ago, my husband and I enrolled our small children in swimming lessons at the local YMCA. Both of my boys loved to swim, so I assumed they would love swim lessons. Except they didn’t. Well one boy did and jumped in before the lesson started. But the other boy? He wouldn’t even get in the pool. His first swim lesson was by observation from the pool deck. When swim lessons were over that day we talked about his fears and hesitation and revisited his feelings later in the week. But at the next lesson, once again, he wouldn’t budge. No amount of talking or coaxing would change his mind so before I knew it, I grabbed his hand and jumped in the pool with him. It was only a matter of time and he grew to love swim lessons. Now he cries when he has to get out of the pool.
Swim lessons are just one example. I soon learned that while one of my kids has an adventurous spirit and a I’ll-try-everything-once kinda attitude, my other son is fearful of almost every new situation and experience. He needs someone to come alongside him and push him out of his comfort zone.
A similar thing happened this past winter on the ski slopes when we joined the ski club at school. After 3 lessons on the bunny hill, my oldest son couldn’t be kept off the black diamond runs. Meanwhile, my youngest son was perfectly content to stay on the bunny hill. He wasn’t afraid of the taller and longer slopes, he had a fear of the ski lift that would take him to higher heights. The ski instructor begged and pleaded with my son, promising a grand reward, but my stubborn son dug in his
heels boots and refused. So I took his hand, assured him he would be okay, and we rode the ski lift together. I can’t say this was easy, he was crying and my heart was pounding, but at the top? Oh the triumph we found at the top of that mountain (okay it was just a hill, this is Minnesota) was worth every tear and stomach churn.
Some of you are probably appalled by this pushiness. You may want to cite a research study out there about how I am permanently scarring my children by taking this sort of action. But this works for us, for our family. Our kids respond to gentle pushes, as long as they are in the right spirit. Perhaps it’s better for your children to observe rather than participate, and that’s okay too. It is my hope that my external encouragement will eventually allow my children to possess an intrinsic motivation to try new things and push themselves beyond their wildest expectations.
“Sometimes the only form of transportation you can take is a leap of faith.”
I have plenty more stories I could share, and not all of them are in the physical realm. We have had to encourage our kids to try the trumpet in band, sing in the Christmas program at church, and play with a friend they might not naturally gravitate towards. We have nurtured an interest in art and helped expand the repertoire of foods they will eat. We push our kids to read the next level book and do the optional “challenge” at the bottom of their math homework.
The reason I push my kids is not for them to achieve a 4.0 GPA and get into Harvard or make the Olympic ski team or be the next Michael Phelps of the swim world. The reason I push my kids is to help them live life to their fullest potential. I want them to be the best version of themselves they can possibly be, not just be better than someone else. I knew my son could swim in the deep end, conquer the highest ski slope and master the extra credit, but he didn’t know he could do it. And now he does. Little by little he is building his self-confidence, finding his rhythm and learning the limitations of his abilities.
Pushing my kids is not easy. Most of the time, I find it difficult to be met with resistance from them. It’s ironic that sometimes I feel uncomfortable by pushing them out of their comfort zone. They may grumble and moan and say “we don’t have to do that, it’s just extra credit” and we reply “always try your best and go the extra mile.” We hope to inspire our kids by living with this same attitude, trying new things even when they seem impossible.
This past year, my husband, who was told he would never graduate from college because he has dyslexia, completed grad school for an MBA. Every late night spent studying after a long day of work and then a full evening of parenting, was worth it for the accomplishment of achieving something that once was just a dream. It may be apparent that I have no writing or technical skills, but I still bought a fancy camera and started a blog. This was totally out of my comfort zone but I am okay with my amateur work because it brings me joy to document life in this manner. Good things come from stretching ourselves, regardless of age.
I am okay with my status as a pushy parent. Because even as an adult, I still need my parents to push me sometimes. Just last week I was in a car accident and my van was totaled at the scene. I walked away with more mental damage than physical injuries. I called my dad for a ride home and vowed to never drive again, it was too scary and overwhelming. He looked at me, handed me his car keys and said “You have to drive, you will be okay.” He knew I could do it before I knew I could do it.
Thanks dad, for continuing to push me out of my comfort zone. I hope my kids will thank me one day.
“A ship is safe in the harbor – but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd