My daughter is easily frustrated when trying new things. Like me, she often finds things easy, and expects them all to be thus. Plus, like me, she expects perfection. And, again, like me, she'll often stay in her comfort zone where she has mastered things and can perfect them.
So it's up to me, as her mother, to push her (and myself) to try, and try again. It's up to me to convince us both that it's okay to need to keep trying and work to as good as YOU can do.
I think I've succeeded a little bit better with her than with myself.
On her own, I've heard her say, "Oh well, that's okay, I tried, I'll keep trying and next time will be better."
Recently, her gymnastics coach moved her class up to the next level, with more challenges. She's outside her accomplished comfort zone now, and is being challenged. Thus she initially resisted, tremendously.
"I hate gymnastics," said the child who only last week said gymnastics was her favorite thing to do EVAH. When it came time to go to class, she said, "I don't want to go." When I pressed why, she said, "I don't feel good."
I fell for it the first time. The second time, I was suspicious. I could think of no good reason I knew, so I pressed her for her good reason. We finally got to the truth, "Coach keeps asking me to do all these thngs I CAN NOT DO!" she cried, frustrated, tears leaking out of her eyes.
We talked, and she returned to her classes, and, with practice, getting better and better at the new activities.
Last week she came home shining with accomplishment, and the weekly award for achievement, "I got an award!" she cried, full of excitement and enthusiasm, her words blurring together quickly as she rushed to tell me her success, "It's for the vault! Squat-on! I did it!"
We were all really glad we asked her to persist. And I began thinking about the entire concept of "keep at it versus cut and run."
How do you know when the right time comes to leave versus work through the tough spot?
My mother was very sensitive to me saying, "I'm unhappy" and that was all I had to say to quit. I left behind me a string of things I regret and miss. I think many times I really wanted her to tell me how I could keep doing my activity in spite of whatever the obstacle was. I think sometimes I wanted a reason---outside myself and my temporary frustration---telling me to keep at it. My prime example is the viola.
In eighth grade, I moved into school number six. My previous school was very academically-focused. My favorite activities---history club and orchestra---were respected. Both were very large groups, lead by popular and dynamic teachers. There were probably 50 or more kids in the orchestra and over 30 kids in history club. We went to competitions, had field trips, and everyone enjoyed themselves. After years of solo viola lessons, I loved finally being part of a large orchestra. When we moved, this time we moved cities, and I left behind not only my school friends, but also my town friends...I left behind an entire lifestyle. It was devastating.
My new school didn't even have a history club, and orchestra was about six kids, all of whom were very mocked and frightened. I entered school with my usual confidence, sure that I'd make friends. Only, this school had a bad feeling to it. After a couple of weeks passed and I still hadn't met a friendly person or seen a friendly face, I decided maybe this time wasn't gong to be okay. One day, as I approached my locker bank from around the corner, I heard my locker mate crying to her friend, "She's a NEW girl, and she plays one of those INSTRUMENTS. Oh my GOD what if someone thinks it's MINE? I'd just DIE. They'd think I was a LOSER."
Although I was amazed and appalled, I thought, maybe I need to alter a little to fit in. So I ditched the viola, for good. And made changes to myself I am still trying to work out. All for nothing, in the end.
I wonder what might have happened, had I stuck with the viola in some way, maybe private lessons. As an adult, looking back, I see a wealth of potential creative solutions to this incident, and I can't help but wonder about this quitting and other quittings and what might have happened had I been asked---by myself or a parent---to stick it out and work it out. Perhaps I needed help figuring out who I was, and how to be true to myself.
However, the tough thing about young people is knowing what their truth is...they are still unwritten in so many ways.
Some things seem simple, such as sticking with gymnastics, despite my daughter's worry about being able to do the next challenge. But what about the day, say five years from now, when she says she's tired of gymnastics, and wants to focus on soccer? Or what about three lessons into piano, when she says, "I don't think I like doing this." Maybe she decides she wants to work for a year before going to college. Perhaps she asks me for advice about sticking with a friendship or relationship.
I hope wisdom comes to me in each of these moments, because in all truth, I am still personally trying to find my way when it comes to 'try harder or quit while I'm ahead.'
Many people find it difficult or impossible to walk away. Sometimes I think that I've had too much practice and find it too easy. It seems that sometimes I don't show much wisdom when choosing whether to leave or stay. So I want my children to find a better way of answering, "Should I stay or should I go?"
Have you ever stuck with or quit something you regret? What's your method of determining whether to work it out or quit while you're ahead? How do you pass this along to your children?
By Julie Pippert
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