Stoic Saturday: How Do You See Your Kids?

There is, without a doubt, a gap between how we see our children and how they really are. We may see the smartest kid in class, a teacher may see a kid who won’t listen. We may see an athlete, a coach may see a kid who sure does try. We may see kids playing the yard and having fun, neighbors may see an annoyance. I’d like to believe parents know their kids well enough to be right about them more often than not, but there are absolutely times when our perceptions of our children don’t line up with how they really are.

When that happens, it isn’t the teacher’s fault, or the coach’s fault, or the neighbor’s fault. It is the fault of our perceptions.

Disturbance comes only from within – from our own perceptions.

We love our kids, and that’s a good thing. We can see the best in them, and it’s great to build that confidence in them. We can also create perceptions of them that center around only the best of them. When those perceptions are challenged or completely shattered, we naturally feel upset at whatever snapped you into cold reality. But it’s not the coach’s fault our kid doesn’t end up being the leading goal scorer. It is more likely our kid’s lack of coordination, or the fact they would rather chat with their friend on the other team than pay attention to where the ball is going. I’d like to say those are hypothetical examples, the next Mia Hamm my daughter is not.

And I understand that. I am not upset that she doesn’t get to play more offense, or even play more of anything. However, how many coaches, umpires, other parents draw the ire of a parent who is unable to get beyond their perception of their own kid’s abilities?

Though I am still not in control of my perceptions. This week my daughter got sent home this week with a letter from school saying she’ll be getting extra attention in math because of how she performed on an assessment. My first reaction was a bit of disappointment and maybe even a little sadness. My daughter is a little smarty pants, how can she need extra help in math? I’ve heard her count to 100 many times because she says, “Dad, listen to me count to 100.” Many. Times.

But what was I disappointed in? Not the fact that my daughter may be struggling a bit with addition or subtraction, but the fact that she might not be as smart in the classroom as she is in my mind. My disappointment came from within.

Lots of things happen in life. Most of them are neither truly terrible nor truly spectacular, so we need to be careful not to perceive them as such. This is easy to put in practice for something impersonal like not letting yourself get annoyed by a traffic jam or bad weather. It is much more difficult when we must try to maintain appropriate perspectives on our children. I mean, we made them for crying out loud. Still, it is helpful to stop and take a look at what is really making us upset when we are faced with the notion that something about our kids doesn’t match up with how we see them. I see my kids as my babies, and I’m told someday they’ll be teenagers. When that moment comes, and that realization sinks in – there will most definitely be a disturbance within. But only if I let it happen.

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