This is not really a post on speech and language, but one on the journey of parenting. These are my musings as I am prepping to send one child to the altar for a summer wedding and the other out into the world post spring college graduation. The two remaining at home are about to take their next big leap to the world of SATs and college applications and all of the decisions that entails.
Life is often likened to a marathon race, your eyes set on the prize of completion while all of you strives to finish well. Along the way, there are people on the sidelines — supporters– playing their various roles to help you achieve.
Parenting follows a similar suit.
When our babies are born, we are their trainers. We live alongside them, keenly observing. We fortify, model, shape, redirect, discipline and teach. Sometimes we are bossy. Sometimes we encourage. But, we are hands on. In the game. Working tirelessly for the best outcomes.
Then, those sweet-smelling, chubby, helpless babies become toddlers and then children. They have opinions of their own. Preferences. Wills. They don’t need the intensity of a training parent. Instead, they need a coach. Coaches stay on the sidelines. But they still watch. They know the game plan. They direct and advise. They get angry when the play doesn’t go well and show the players how do to it better next time. They employ all sorts of tools…play books, diagrams, videos, repetitive drills and pep talks. And when the play goes well, they are right there offering a hug or a big pat on the back.
The well-coached children learn the basics of the game. Usually, they play successfully. Sometimes, the game takes an unexpected turn. The other team doesn’t play by the rules. The game gets tiring and activity in another field looks more interesting. The players wander off course just a little. Now they are teens. Opinionated. Independent. Vulnerable. They need a manager. Someone to write the checks and keep up the support, but not be directly involved in the day to day. The manager is on-call, willing to be summoned 24 hours a day, but also content to be hidden away so the other players don’t know they exist. The manages are really ok with this. They are busy people and their managees can really be pains in the butt sometimes. But, they do relish the times when a conference over dinner takes place.
Finally, those surly, awkwardly cool, emotional teens venture out in the world on their own. Fewer checks are written. There are fewer summons for counsel. They begin to navigate life one decision at a time. What do they need now? A cheerleader! Cheerleaders stay on the sidelines. They pretend not to see the goof-ups and they keep on cheering. They see the best in their team. They want the best for their team. Occasionally, they diss the other team, but their main job is to clap, and scream, and jump and sing silly songs. They motivate and encourage. They recharge and renew. They even brag a little. Those players need those cheerleaders. Without them, the game seems very lonely and quiet. If they are focused on their game, they can easily block out the cheerleader clamor, but it is welcome noise when the going gets tough.
So hang in there training parents who haven’t slept in weeks, haven’t showered in days and haven’t had a sensible conversation in forever. Persevere coaching parents who spend Saturdays in the car like an unpaid Uber driver….dropping off here and picking up there. Get through the season of book reports, science projects, uneaten meals, stinky socks, empty gas tanks and depleted checkbooks. The cheerleader days are coming at warp speed! And oh how sweet they are!