“Parents, give your children the gift of experience, fun, and socialization. Otherwise, it’s on YOU!”
Parents play a critical role in their child’s self-perception, identification, and confidence. Only once I became a parent did I realize how crucial the parental role is in the developmental process. I am the youngest of many siblings with significant age gaps separating us. As the last child in the bunch my upbringing consisted of hand-me-down clothes and no time or finances for activities my parents were convinced I’d quit. I did not participate in sports. My parents had witnessed the ‘start-stop’ nature of kids wanting to be involved in such activities and simply had no resources left to invest in me. To this day I remember a 5th grade classmate hosting a sleepover that ‘all the girls were invited to’ except me. Of course, that was not the case. This girl was allowed ‘a few friends’ and I didn’t make the cut. It was devastating to my being at the time because these girls were my friends in the classroom. What I didn’t realize then, that I know now, is these girls had parents who were friends, who engaged with one another, probably enjoyed social drinks together, and had their kids in similar activities. I wanted to be in gymnastics, cheer, dance. NO, no, and more no. My immigrant mother who barely speaks proper English didn’t go around ‘participating’ with other moms and kids. Thank goodness for my outgoing neighbor ‘best friend’ who dragged me everywhere and as such shared every friend and experience. The funny thing is, I grew up thinking I was a natural introvert or shy. I grew into a type-A book-smart honor roll student. These are not bad things but what would I have become if I was permitted to follow my dreams of simply participating? Parents, give your kids a chance to explore, grow, and conquer their innocent dreams through participation. Include yourself in the process as you play an integral role. Be present. Be supportive. Even if that means bringing yourself outside of your own comfort zones.