Another sport...another activity...more commitment...
It’s true. Parenting kids today is so different than 50 years ago. The world has changed. Everything has changed. Kids today have so many opportunities to do so many varied things. You will hear a lot of older folks say, “Kids today are so scheduled. They have no time to just play.”
Sometimes that is true, and in our house, it did come to a breaking point.
My eldest wanted to do everything! And she was usually good at everything. She started on a summer swim team at the age of 7. We moved to year round swimming at about age 9. She took dance lessons for a year. She was active in our church. She even joined youth groups at other churches and went on retreats with those churches. She was in school plays and fund raisers, and did field trips and community projects. You get the picture. I was tired, and all this was expensive! So, when she hit 4th grade and came home saying she wanted to be on an Odyssey of the Mind team for her school, I hit my breaking point. “No!” I said. Enough was enough.
I didn’t need another activity to get her to, let alone pay for.
For those of you that are not familiar with Odyssey of the Mind, it is a wonderful nationwide competition that actually gets kids together to work on skits or projects created around a “problem” to solve. It fosters imagination, creativity, performance, excellence, and team building. As you can see, I now am a fan of OM as they call it. But, at the time, I just did not want another thing.
Jacqueline really wanted to do it. It involved several months of group meetings to get their team presentation together. Each child put in a certain amount of money for supplies. And there was a regional competition held out of town. The only thing I could focus on was the innumerate number of car trips to get her to and from practice. She was determined. So, I finally told her that she could do OM if I didn’t have to do anything for it.
What? What did that mean? She had to find rides to and from practice, herself. She had to pay for it out of her own money. And I wasn’t promising to get her to or even attend the regional competition. I’m not quite sure what the other mothers in the group thought of me, but it was all I could do at the time.
Well, she did it!! At the age of 10!! She loved it.
About a week before the regional competition, I went to see one of the final rehearsals and I have to say, I was quite impressed. The kids had done so much work. They were working collectively as a group and this OM really looked like a good thing. The morning of the regional competition, Jacqueline got picked up at the house to go. I decided I would go and see the kids compete. The competition was held at a high school in a neighboring county about an hour away. I went into the gym, found her team sitting in the bleachers and just quietly went up and sat with them. The parents were allowed in the rooms with the kids when they presented their projects but not for the spontaneous contests. They were ready and seemed to do well during the day. It was later in the afternoon, while waiting for scoring results that one of Jacqueline’s best friends turned to me and asked, “Did Jackie really have to pay for this herself?” “Yes, I said, “she really did.”
At that point, I knew I had made an impression.
I didn’t know where I stood. I don’t know if Jackie was embarrassed or what, but internally I smiled. Well, guess what? Or should I say, Now What? Her team won first place in their Category.!!
It was one of those moments in life that she, nor I, will ever forget. Those kids and parents and teachers were so excited, you would have thought we won the Super Bowl!! No one expected it; no one knew what to expect. It was magical! And it meant that their team would go on to compete at the state level in Richmond.
What did it mean to me? I was wrong.
Odyssey of the Mind was a great program that encouraged and fostered skills that are not usually promoted in group activities. It was actually meant to stretch their minds and abilities. Jacqueline went on to compete for many years as did her sister. Her Dad and I became OM coaches and had our own teams. I actually coached other teams on the spontaneous part of the competition. And yet, perhaps even more valuable than all that was the life lesson that Jacqueline learned that first year. She did it! All by herself! I hope that she realized she could do something all on her own. She could line up the resources. She could find a way to make it happen, if she wanted it badly enough. I was wrong. She was right. She was made for OM. And she was made for life!
SOMETIMES KIDS ARE THE BEST TEACHERS.