Saturday, May 10, 2014

Pusher Love

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“When something good happens to you, I don’t know about you guys, but I tend to look back to what brought me here. [Looking at his mother in the audience.]  You woke me up in the middle of the night in the summer times. Making me run up a hill. Making me do push-ups. Screaming at me from the sidelines at my games at eight or nine years old. We weren’t supposed to be here. You made us believe. You kept us off the street, put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.” - Kevin Durant upon accepting his first NBA MVP award.

By now, you know what I believe when it comes to parenting, but let me repeat for the purpose of making today's point:

1. You don't need to be afraid of being really, really, really great at something. In fact, it's something worth pursuing, and even if you fall short, you'll learn and gain a lot for the whole of your life.

2. In order to get extremely good at something, you have to work very hard for a very long time.  (Unless you are Mozart.)

3. No kid naturally wants to work very hard for a very long time.  So the push has to come from an external source.  And parents should want that external source to be themselves, rather than someone else (no offense meant to coaches, pastors, teachers, etc.).

I am reminded of these points as I listen to basketball star Kevin Durant thanking his mother for caring for him, sacrificing for him, and yes even pushing him when he was a kid.  Also, I have a friend who is a professional musician who recently posted a picture of herself on Facebook playing piano as a kid with the caption, "I used to hate practicing the piano. Thx mom. I'm a professional musician because of you." 

We needn't be cruel to our kids.  We ought to know when we are pushing because of some void in our own lives rather than because we are thinking of our children.  There are limits to how much kids can stretch, and it is quite possible that what they need sometimes is not more pushing but more space.  Understood.

But it's also true that kids gain when we exhort them beyond what they think is possible.  I consider myself exceptionally internally motivated, even at a young age.  And yet, if it was up to me, I would have spent all my days playing video games and sorting my baseball cards.  In order to succeed in life, to make a difference in the world, to be all that you have been created to be, you have to stretch and try and fall and grow. 

Parents who get this don't let kids give up or get soft or settle.  They are OK if their kid hates them for a season, and don't bat an eye putting them in hard situations where failure is likely and comfort is nowhere to be found.  This is love, too.  I know this, Kevin Durant knows, my musician friend knows this, and I hope my kids will know this too. 
 
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