“Kids are too soft these days.”
I rolled my eyes and tuned out the parent next to me at the youth baseball game when they started on a tirade about “today’s kids.”
The truth is, I’m tired of hearing people say that we are raising a generation of soft kids.
When did we all agree that we wanted to raise tough kids anyways?
Why should our goal be to raise kids who slough off danger like it’s no big deal?
Why should our goal be to raise kids who tolerate being bullied by their parents?
Why should our goal be to raise kids who don’t know how to express any feelings other than anger?
I know the answer that parents like the one next me will give.
“We can’t raise soft kids because life isn’t fair.”
“People are going to be mean to our children when they are adults.”
“Kids need to develop thick skin to make it in this cruel world.”
I just don’t buy it.
What if we all tried to raise soft kids instead of pressuring them to be tough all the time?
Kids who aren’t aftaid to express their feelings and emotions and will likely be better partners and parents for it.
Kids who notice other people hurting in the world and want to help create change, rather than place blame.
Kids who let their heart, rather than their pride or arrogance, guide them in life.
If having soft kids means having kids who know the power behind their words and choose kindness over hate, then let me have soft kids.
If raising soft kids means that they don’t have to listen to me shouting criticisms at them in front of their teammates, coaches, and opponents, then I hope they turn out soft.
If raising soft kids means that I have kids who don’t tolerate racism, prejudice, and hate, then I hope I raise soft kids.
Maybe all these soft kids can help make the world a better place. Isn’t that a better option than throwing our hands up and conceding that the world sucks?
Maybe I’m just too soft myself but I have hope that we can do better.
We have to do better.
When my oldest son was 6 years old, he asked us if he could play football. Although I was a solid "no" because I felt it was unsafe, he was determined to play. One year later, after I had done lots of research and talked to many coaches, I decided to let him try it.
After just 3 weeks of practice, he asked me if he could quit. While a big part of me wanted to take his little hand and whisk back to my car, leaving his stinky football equipment on the field, a voice inside me told me that I shouldn't let him quit just yet.
He decided to stick it out and see what a game was like before he made his decision.
That first game day was magical. The sun was bright and hot, a perfect New England September day. The music pumped throughout the stadium and my son got to hear his name announced over the loud speaker at his high school's football stadium as he ran through streamers held by cheerleaders. Although I cannot recall for sure, I am fairly certain that I cried. I was so proud of him and his teammates. They had made a commitment to each other and to themselves. Even though he didn't play much that game, he was hooked.
That season I got to see my quiet, insecure, and timid son change before my eyes. He was becoming more confident, more assertive, and more hopeful. Football was helping to reveal an amazing version of himself, a version I had always known was inside.
So, when our youngest son became old enough to sign up for football, I didn't hesitate. He knew what he was signing up for - after all he had just watched his brother play two full seasons. Just 3 plays into his very first football game, he scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak play. I suspect that moment will be one of the moments that sticks in the photo album of his childhood in his mind - one of those moments he'll tell his own children about someday.
Today my family heads into our final youth football season and I am so thankful for the gifts football has given to us. Year after year, I have seen football's lasting impact on my boys' school work, friendships, and in their other sports. It has taught us all patience, compassion, and the power of commitment.
Lessons we'll carry forever.
8 years ago today, my family of 4 headed to our neighborhood bus stop for the last time.
Back on that day, my oldest was THE oldest at the bus stop - not just by age or grade but physically too. He towered above the other kids and looked completely out of place. It was on that day that I realized every single phase of childhood was reflected in our bus stop:
- the newborn baby who everyone hovered over and smiled at
- the toddler playing in dirt and eager to dart into the traffic
- the preschooler with a million questions and comments about the world
- the pre-kindergartner who desperately wanted to be getting on that bus that year
- the kindergartner dressed in his very best khaki shorts and polo shirt, anxiety and excitement written on his face
- the 1st grader who couldn't believe they had cried the year before
- the 2nd grader who boarded the bus with secure confidence - they've got this
- the 3rd grader who was starting to feel the power of being one of the "big kids"
- the 4th grader who would get to sit near the back of the bus and begged to wear tech t-shirts and basketball shorts on the first day of school
- the 5th grader who was beginning to feel out of place and ready to move on.
But, that bus stop wasn't just a snapshot of each stage of childhood, it was also a cross section of parenthood:
- the single parent managing it all on their own
- the work from home parent who could only be away from her computer for so long before her boss got mad
- the parents who worked opposing schedules and were handing off child care responsibilities in the morning
- the stay at home parents who were somewhat grateful for one less child to entertain that day
- the new-to-the-neighborhood parents who didn't know anyone.
That school year 8 years ago flew by quickly and before we knew it, we were all standing back at the very same bus stop, this time on the last day of school.
Sometime my heart aches a little when I drive by that old bus stop and catch reflections of who we all used to be.
And sometimes, for just for a moment, I wish we were back there - back in that space where life was both harder and easier.
Parenting is one of life's greatest challenges and greatest rewards. Here we explore all aspects of parenting from pregnancy onward, highlighting both the struggles and the triumphs.