Last week, Grace fell down partway through her skating lesson (first of the season), and immediately wanted off the ice, out of the rink, home again, no more skating lessons ever. I knelt down beside her, hugged her and comforted her, and looked her right in the eye and said,
“You are not allowed to quit right now.”
A few days before Joy’s first ballet lesson, she started panicking, and told me she’d changed her mind, she didn’t want to take dance lessons after all. I told her she had to at least try.
On Saturday morning, I drove the girls to Joy’s ballet lesson. It was my first time driving without another licensed adult in the car since my sister’s wedding day, 8 1/2 years ago (on that occasion, I was racing between my sister’s apartment and my parents’ house for her wedding dress, accidentally sent home in Mom’s car the night before instead of my sister’s). I’ve never liked driving, and close to 10 years of living in cities with INSANE drivers didn’t help. I got out of the habit of driving altogether, and have only been slowly working my way back up toward getting behind the wheel again. With Carl out of town over the weekend, I had no choice but to take responsibility and get the driving done. And I did.
I know the trend in parenting is veering away from forcing kids to stay the course and stick with something even if they hate it. In some ways, that’s a good thing. And goodness knows I’m no “tiger mom.” But I remember my parents insisting that I keep taking piano lessons until I was at least respectable, if not proficient, even when I begged them to let me quit. I remember them instilling in me a sense of pride in a job well completed, even if not well loved.
Staying the course is an important lesson. If I hadn’t had those traits driven into me as a kid, would I be able to push myself to accomplish something I loathe now?
It took persuasion from Daddy as well as Mommy’s insistence to get Grace back on the ice that day. But she finally did, and when the lesson was over, she came off beaming and proud (and, needless to say, to lavish praise for overcoming her fear). Joy was nearly sick with nerves before her first ballet lesson, but was begging to stay and keep dancing by the end of it, and now after two lessons she loves it more than anything she’s ever done before.
I won’t say that “no quitting” will be our hard and fast rule for everything in life. But no way am I ever going to let my kids get away with wimping out of something just because they’re afraid it’s going to be too hard or too scary. Life’s about doing those hard and scary things, and working at them until they aren’t hard or scary anymore.
I doubt I’ll ever really enjoy driving. But I’ll keep doing it, and one day, I hope, I’ll suddenly realize “Hey. This is no big deal.”
And then, I suppose, it will be time to tackle my next fear.