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I want them to occasionally play against kids who are much bigger than them in an unfair match-up.
I want the referee to get it wrong with them sometimes.
I don’t want them to get 100% for every spelling or maths test.
I don’t want them to master every piano piece on the first attempt.
I recently read a fantastic interview with Richmond AFL footballer, Ivan Maric, who said of his upbringing, “There was a lot of what I call “invisible learning” through seeing my parents work really, really hard to pay our school fees and put food on the table.”
What a great phrase. Invisible learning.
Every child does it.
You can tell your children about the value of hard work and discipline, but it’s how hard your kids see you work that matters.
Yesterday afternoon, my 10 year old son Hayden said that he didn’t think that he would be able to make it to the AFL (Australia’s highest league for Australian rules football). He thought that maybe a lower league was more achievable.
I looked at him with pride and said, “Let’s not put a ceiling on that goal just yet, the sky is still the limit, so let’s keep training hard and see what happens.”
Maybe he won’t make it to the AFL.
Maybe he will get distracted and try something else.
Maybe he won’t put the work in or just doesn’t have the talent.
Maybe he will get injured and that will hold him back.
But I’m not going to put a cap on his (or my other kids’) aspirations.
I remember it well.
I held out my hand, quivering with fear and anticipation.
And a little hand, no more than a minute old reached out and grabbed my index finger.
“G’day mate.” I uttered.
And so, Hayden was born.
And I became a dad.
And my life changed forever.
Hayden turned 10 today.
He told them that athletes make decisions, not sacrifices to be successful.
In Emma’s words, “If you think that having a healthy diet is a sacrifice then you’re wrong, yes moving away from family and spending time on your own is hard, but it’s a decision and you can choose not to do it.”
It struck me that I use the word sacrifice too much.
I’m currently reading Kevin DeYoung’s Crazy Busy and he talked about how parents get so busy with our lives that we end up giving our kids leftovers.
They get our leftover time and our leftover energy, and I couldn’t help but be challenged myself that it’s time to change this.
I don’t want my kids to get whatever time I have leftover after all of my other activities. It infers to them that they aren’t important enough to prioritise.
To witness their smiles and laughter on Christmas morning is a wonderful experience.
So what do I want for my kids this Christmas?
Not expensive presents, although we want to bless our kids with nice things.
Not an abundance of gifts, with too many to choose from.
Not the latest, coolest gadgets.
I just want them to have enough.
“The urge to create is equally strong in all children. Boys and girls. It’s imagination that counts.
A lot of boys like doll houses, they’re more human than spaceships.
A lot of girls prefer spaceships. They’re more exciting than doll houses.
The most important thing is to put the right material in their hands and let them create whatever appeals to them.”
A few weeks ago, I saw a dad trying in vain to deal with his 3-year-old girl who was trying to look through the window of her big sister’s classroom.
“Matilda come away from there, Matilda come away from there, Matilda come away from there, Matilda come away from there,” the dad repeated from a distance.
After the Matilda (not her real name) ignored his pleas, he just gave up and took out his phone.
Similarly, I was at a kid’s party with one of my sons when another child from another party started to misbehave.
“If you do that again, we’re going home,” his mum warned.
The looked at her defiantly and did it again.
They didn’t go home.
I call this pointless parenting because in reality, they would have been better not to say anything at all.
Last week, at his usual bed-time, my oldest son came up to me. He looked slightly upset and said, “I don’t feel very special at the moment.”
As a parent, I was surprised and perturbed, and quickly responded to reassure him that he was very special. He seemed satisfied by my response and went to bed happy.
But when I went to bed later that night, his comment was still ringing in my ears, so I wrote this story so that he would always know that he is special.
When God created grass, the angels were amazed. They gathered around and told the Creator how special the grass was.
“It’s OK,” said God, “but it’s not that special.”
Then God created snails and the angels were even more amazed. They watched the snails eating the grass and thought that it was very special.
“We’re getting there, but there’s more to come.”