One night I was watching the news and this amazing story of a 7 year old golf protege came on the screen. Apparently this boy started swinging a golf club at the age of 2! His dad now helps him to train, and he practices 3 times a week on a golf range before school, and also gets training from a golf pro, who commented that the boy had more focus on his task than any child he had met under 10.
It would be all too easy right now to assume that the father is driving his boy towards achievement. That may be the case here, but I couldn’t tell from the few brief comments the father made, so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. What interests me though is the gruelling training (for a 7 year old who also has to fit in school). That’s a lot of work for a 7 year old!
It reminds me of the time when my son, then a teenager, got seriously involved with swimming. He had some talent and a genuine interest in competing, and for several months we got stuck into early morning swim sessions 3 times a week from 5am to 7am, and a couple of afternoons a week from 4 – 6pm. Eventually he decided that footy and cricket were more important to him, so he gave the swimming away. I think it might also have had something to do with him being tired half the time on the days that he trained so early.
But it was pretty full on. We ‘d get up at 4am, be out the door by 4:40 and at the pool by 5am. Matty was part of a swimming class that trained competitive swimmers, so of course all the other parents were there too. It often seemed pretty surreal, sitting there watching them swim back and forth, back and forth. And then there were the competitions as well, taking up all of a Saturday every few weeks or so.
We only had a glimpse of that world before we moved on, and if Matty had wanted to we would have continued for probably another couple of years or so. I don’t really know how he felt about that whole time, but I remember how hard it was for me!
I have mixed feelings about the whole experience. It was somewhat stressful, and whilst I wasn’t the one swimming it took it out of me as well. It probably wasn’t a long enough period of time for me to settle into a routine and get my expectations under control. I never pushed my son, but whenever I saw him swim competitively I would literally squirm in my seat, and I swear that I almost felt as if I was doing the swimming for him! I remember the coach noticing me and saying something like “It’s not going to make him swim any faster!” It must have been amusing to watch me writhe on the seat, I so wanted him to do well.
I have no idea whether Matty felt as stressed as I did. I think he was disappointed if he didn’t swim well. But I do know this – I definitely wasn’t some achievement oriented dad whose son had to win – I just wanted him to win for his own sake. It’s as if I felt he would take the disappointment too much to heart, and I would have done anything to help him feel confident and able to take on the world.
When I think back, I’ve probably been like that with all the kids. It’s very easy for me to imagine that they could be crushed by life. I’m not 100% sure where that comes from. My life has not been a failure, but it certainly hasn’t been strewn with success either. I’ve been very resilient, bouncing back from lost opportunities to forge ahead, and have done fairly well in a general sense. So if I’m resilient, why wouldn’t I think my kids are?
I wonder how the dad feels about his 7 year old golfing son. Is he proud? I’m sure he is. Does he want to protect him from too much stress, or does he just want to throw him in the deep end?
Not everyone is like me, but I’m guessing it’s common for parents to stress over their kids, their future and their well being. A Steve Martin film from many years back, called “Parenthood” comes to mind. At one stage of the movie he is watching his son playing baseball, and his son, who was not a good player and was having difficulty fitting in, is confronted with a do or die catch.Steve, in his typical overstated humour, envisages two possible future scenarios based around his son’s success or otherwise on the baseball field – one of ‘well adjustedness’ and success, and the other a life of crime and dead ends. Here’s the clip from Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OtShRAvpAQ.
I laughed so hard at that part of the movie, but boy could I relate. I worry too much, and then catastrophise about the consequences. In another part of the movie Steve’s son does actually make an important catch, and Steve as the father can’t contain himself he is SO happy, relieved, and proud – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XW-Nxfx5Nw
It is true that my son in his teenage years was a real handful, and getting himself into quite a bit of strife over a period of years. Perhaps some time, with his permission, I might unpack that a little. But (surprise, surprise) he has gone on to be a fine young man, as have all my children.
I’m a little less of a catastrophiser nowadays, but it’s not entirely absent. At least I can tell myself from past experience that my fears have most of the time been groundless, and so reassure myself when anxiety’s insidious grip tightens around my mind.
All this from a news report on a gifted child! It’s funny what pours forth once we start to ponder.