Finding their "thing" July 08 2015 5 Comments

If you’ve been following my social media this past week, you will know that our oldest boy Charlie turned nine years old. Being on holidays I have had more time to just ‘be’ with my kids instead of thinking about schedules and after school activities and homework. It has been awesome. They are all so similar and so different.

Physically they are clearly from the one family and they are all tactile, rough and messy. Boys. 

They are all equally as energetic and loud as the next one when running freely in their own space. They don’t sit still much. 

Except for when on the iPad. My best frenemy

When it comes to their personalities and temperaments however, they are all very different. We have extroverted and introverted, shy versus confident. Attached versus independent. As they’ve aged, I have learnt to love the shy, attached, cling to “only my mum” phases. Now, the growing independence and lack of public hand holding sends a pang through my heart every time it appears. A mix of pride and sadness contemplating my obsoleteness. 

I am treasuring the primary school years when we have ditched the nappies, bottles, portocots and day sleeps. We can go with the flow a lot more and if I don’t pack a huge bag of spare clothes, pre-prepared food and a whole lot of other riff-raff to take on our adventures, it’s no big deal. Finally, we are there! It seems like I’ve climbed Mt Everest to get there, but we are here and I am going to enjoy it before adolescence creeps up on us too quickly.

Charlie, being the first born has taught us so much. On the surface, he is shy, with a ‘slow to warm up’ type of temperament. Apparently very similar to his Dad as a young child and this surprises a lot of people. Like me, he is happy to be the listener rather than the talker most of the time. He now realises that being the first child to put their hand up in class or being the loudest, most extroverted leader in the playground, does not mean that you’re ‘doing the best’.

Being a thinker and more quietly spoken does not make you inferior. Sometimes other people need reminding of that. This past year has been really good to Charlie. Eight was the year he bloomed and finally appeared to others in the same way that we had always seen him when he was comfortable at home. 

The world now gets to see him being loud, confident, animated, determined and funny. He has an unique style of physical humour beyond his years. When he brings it out in public, people are surprised but very amused. I have always wanted nothing more for him than to reach his full potential, what ever that is. We are well on the way.

So what ingenious strategies have we implemented to make our first born blossom in his eighth year?

What type of parenting guru am I?

I am not one at all. He discovered basketball. 

Yes basketball, it is as simple and as complicated as that.

Somehow he found his “thing”. 

Something that was ALL his. Somewhere that he felt safe and confident with a small group of his best mates. It was an activity no one else in his family had talked about before. It was ALL his. 

How wonderful. 

He suddenly had his own uniform, his own number, a special hand shake and a coach he looks up to. His coach is still in high school himself, so is old enough to be respected, yet cool enough to be admired. The perfect mix of fun and firm, topped off with a ‘rad’ hairstyle. Bonus. 

Together with the other Mums we pile as many boys as we can fit into our cars once a week for after school training. This 15 minute drive is honestly one of the highlights of my week. Their little gang exchanges thoughts on the school yard topic of the day as they change uniforms and I listen nonchalantly, but intently

Gold

I learn more on this drive than the other four school days combined. They exchange pearls of wisdom in between shoving in afternoon tea and shoving out gas. The car is loud and stinky but full of laughs and my heart explodes as I watch them bond and treasure their true little friendships as if they were my own. 

The basketball training and games give Charlie the right mix of physical activity, discipline and continuous learning that he needs. The team picks him up when he is down and revels in his small triumph’s more than the tiny smile on his face shows. Just to confirm this blog is not about excelling in sport. He is an average player for his age. In between the many ‘travel’ fouls and missed shots, he shows small glimpses of physical greatness but that is not my point. He feels good. He feels a part of something special. 

His basketball career started off very slowly and often in a fiery way. There were many tantrums and displays of unsportsmanlike behaviour that were frustrating and slightly embarrassing to watch. As he learnt the rules and his body caught up to his brain, he has shown himself that perseverance pays. He knows how much ongoing practice it takes to get better at something. We too have had our patience tested as Charlie moves along each little milestone at HIS own pace, not ours. 

Charlie now knows that making mistakes is not the end of the world. Even though every boy on his team seems to keep track of the score and prefers to win than to play their best game ever, they get ‘over it’.

So for now basketball has been Charlie’s "thing". The confidence he has gained on the court has transferred off it. His friendships have been given an extra chance to cement themselves firmly away from the school yard politics and the classroom responsibilities.  His team includes boys that are not his ‘best friends’ at school and his broadening friendship group has helped him feel an even greater sense of belonging. 

Sport is so great at providing that opportunity. For many others it can be found in musical, performing or academic interest's.

Wherever it is, I’d recommend helping your child to find their ‘thing’. It might appear in the place you least expect. In an activity you personally don’t enjoy. I'd say, give them scope to discover what it is for themselves.

It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:

I'd love you to share how your child found their 'thing"......