Are You a Pusher Parent?
Our next article from Susan Strayer who’s an inspiration to many with her Blog – Mountain Mom and Tots.
Big E turned six last week so I’ve spent a large amount of my time celebrating. There was the family dinner, presents, a bouncy house outing and taking a friend, cousin and sister to the arcade. With a birthday in January and my being eight months pregnant my outdoor celebratory options were minimal. I did arrange for Big E to go skiing with a talented teenage neighbor (Mountain Dad doesn’t ski yet) but the morning of his big day he told me in no uncertain terms, “Today’s my birthday. I can’t go skiing.”
I’m not sure what about the day would prevent him from skiing. In my world snowboarding would be the number one activity of choice for my big day. I was flummoxed and asked him repeatedly, “Are you sure you don’t want to go skiing today? You can go for just an hour if you want.” But he was sure. It was his birthday and he didn’t want to spend it skiing.
This brought up an interesting self-reflective question. Am I a pusher parent? My answer: Yes.
You know the kind, the ones who live vicariously through their children, who excessively encourage sports, academics, dance or any other interest to the detriment of their over-scheduled offspring.
There’s a great chapter on this in the book All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior. I talked about this book in this previous post.
It discusses the pressure parents feel to have their children involved and the causes of that pressure. What parent doesn’t want their child to develop talents, learn discipline, and make friends, after all?
Sports, scouting, clubs and groups are great ways to accomplish that, but how does the child’s schedule affect the family unit as a whole? I don’t want to be just a taxi service for my over-involved children and after reading All Joy and No Fun I decided I wouldn’t force my kids into anything.
Then ski season came around.
We live near Sundance Resort in Utah. Our family chooses to live here because of its easy access to recreational activities. I LOVE snowboarding; it is one of the top ways I feel joy in being alive. In fact being pregnant during this entire ski season has caused more than a few depressed days this winter.
I fully intend to teach my kids to ski and snowboard as soon as they can walk. I want that to be the sport they care about as much as I do. In my house, I’d love for the winter X games to be a bigger sporting event than the Super Bowl.
If that makes me a pusher parent, oh well. I believe a love of outdoor sports is worth a little parental pressure.
I hope my influence doesn’t cross the line between coercion and creating an outdoor family culture. My goal as a parent is to give my children skills they can use throughout their lives, very specific skills that have brought joy and adventure to my own life. Here’s my list:
1 – Skiing or Snowboarding. It’s just so awesomely fun, plus when they’re teenagers we’ll have something in common and they’ll be stuck on a lift with me, forcing them to talk to me about it.
2 – Music. Playing the piano and trumpet opened doors to friendships I would not have had otherwise. I could take pride in my abilities, even though I never was an exceptionally good musician.
3 – Speaking Spanish. Learning a foreign language was hard. For me it included two foreign exchange programs and a lot of extra classes in high school and college. But I use Spanish in my life a lot and if I can give that gift to my kids and make it easier by teaching them when they’re young, I’ll do it.
4 – Riding a bike and swimming. Swimming can save lives and every kid should know how to ride a bike.
I guess my kids will have to live with the fact that I will push them in these areas. I’ll have to get over it too. Activities above and beyond these will have to be inspired by the kids themselves.
So, in what areas are you a pusher parent? I can’t be the only one out there…I hope.
Susan Strayer, author of MountainMomandTots.com is all about getting families into nature. She lives with her husband and three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, Utah and spends her time hiking, biking, skiing and camping as much as possible.
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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.