We don’t get to pick how tall our kids are and neither do they. It’s beyond their control whether they’re big or small—whether they have the fastest reflexes or the strongest muscles or the quickest wit. They don’t control whether the coach loves them…or is a jerk. They don’t control most of what happens in the classroom or in the locker room for that matter. As Cheryl Strayed writes in Tiny Beautiful Things, “You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt.”
So what do we tell our kids to focus on? What is always up to them?
What they do in response to those circumstances. What’s up to them is whether they do their best or not. Whether they try hard. Whether they find a way to enjoy the process.
So after practice, after the game, after the big test, you need to make sure that your questions and your criteria for judging them reflect that. Meaning, not “Did you guys win?”, “Did you pass?”, but “Did you have fun?”, “Did you do your best?”, “What do you think you could have done better to prepare?”
We don’t control the hand we’re dealt. Our biology isn’t up to us, nor is our place in the world (geographically or socioeconomically). But our kids (or families) decide how we play that hand. We decide what we do about it. We decide whether we give it our all.
The second part of Cheryl Strayed’s quote tells us what we must do: “You have an obligation to play the hell out of the [cards] you’re holding.”
Teach them that.
You can pick up a copy of Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar at Ryan’s bookshop The Painted Porch and support indie retail by picking it up online too!