Commitment and kids activities - finding the right balance
Piano, soccer, dance.
Gymnastics, swimming, tennis.
Homework, languages, tutoring.
We want our children to be great. We want the world to be their oyster. We would like them to experience it all, so that they may find what they love and excel at it.
We also know intuitively that they may only find their greatness through the action of turning up, consistently, for a long time, to these activities. That in the commitment, in the turning up and action, is where mastery and confidence can be found. So we sign our children up, one term, one semester, one year at a time. We commit them to extracurricular activities, schedules, homework and projects.
But do we hold ourselves up to these same standards?
This is our deepest wish as parents. To cultivate the greatness in our children. And to this end, we either coerce them to honour these commitments we have made on their behalf, or we stand by and watch them flake out on something they initially had excitement, passion and ability for. As soon as it gets tough or boring, "it's ok dear, why don't you try something else?"
So how does one honour the spirit of our child and look after the real needs and wants of our children, while also teaching them about all the wonders that commitment brings?
We show them through our own actions.
How are we to take the hand of anyone and lead them down a path for which we only have a vague understanding?
We are committed to helping our children reach their greatness by handing over the money for their self development, delivering them to the door of their classes and sometimes hounding them to practice and perform.
What we need to have is our own direct experience of finding our own greatness through our own commitments to our own passions. We first walk the road of mastery and greatness for ourselves, feel the ebb and flow of passion, then we show our children through our own lived experience what is possible.
In the philosophy of yoga, there is an emphasis on the right effort and commitment on the path of yoga. There is acknowledgement that the path is sometimes tough and requires great effort. However there are virtues of conviction, inner strength, mindfulness, focus and clear understanding that will get you through to the other side (Sutra 1.20). And the more you put in, the more you will get out of your efforts (Sutra 1.21). Yoga is also a philosophy that emphasises direct experience for the practitioner to know what they are talking about. Indeed, there is an emphasis on learning from a teacher that has walked the path before you, not so they can teach you want they know, but so that they may help you find your own experience of yoga.
When we have turned up and turned up and turned up again and experienced everything that goes along with mastering a craft, including the disappointments and the achievements, we are so much better placed to be great examples for our children if they have lost their fire for their activity. We will also be so much better able to navigate the decision to forge ahead or leave something behind consciously and without guilt, arguments or disappointments because we are hopefully better able to understand the difference between a dip in commitment or simply barking up the wrong tree.