How moms are like football kickers

>> Saturday, November 24, 2007

I am a football fan, mostly college. I think there is no more entertaining and engaging sport to watch. Especially when the game is close or my Gators are winning. Tonight I watched a great game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Kentucky Wildcats. 4 overtimes!! Very exciting. In any given fall weekend, whether it be college or pro, there is at least one game that is decided by a field goal or less. The whole team works so hard all game and it comes down to the skill (or sometimes luck) of one player - the place kicker. He makes it, he's the hero. He misses, he's the goat. That's a lot of pressure for one person.

My husband and I had a conversation recently that left me feeling like that place kicker on whose back the outcome of the game rides. -- Our son is pretty polite for a 20month old. He regularly says please (with words and with signs) when asking for things, he says "bless you mommy" if I sneeze, and he loves to say "thank you mommy" when I play with him or give him something he has asked for. It is pretty adorable, actually. So I asked my husband, "Do I get credit for Lucas being polite? Did I teach him that?" His answer... "I think that's just part of his personality." Really?

So here is my question: As mommies we are usually the ones on whom the day-to-day task of raising our children falls. It goes well, we are the heroes. Our children will be thanking us in their valedictorian and Pulizter Prize acceptance speeches. Not so well, the goats. They will be sitting on Dr. Phil's set explaining how we ruined their lives. But in situations like this with my polite toddler, is it o.k. or appropriate for me as my son's mother to get credit for teaching him to be polite? Granted, we have a long ways to go before we can actually say he is a polite child. At this stage of being a little sponge, he is polite. At least I think so, but I don't know a ton about what is a normal amount of politeness at this age. Why is it, though, that we as moms are quick to blame ourselves when things aren't going well but reluctant to take the credit when they are? When Lucas doesn't nap or gets yet another cold, I tell myself that I haven't trained him to sleep well or that I exposed him to too many germs. But when he learns to count to 10 (which he can almost do) and can independently solve a puzzle that says "5 and up," what is my role in that? Do I get the credit for that too, or only the bad "obviously learned" things? This is staring to feel like a nature vs. nurture argument which was not my intent. I fully recognize that both forces are always at play, in almost everything. But it struck me as odd that my husband wasn't forth coming with the praise for a job well done in teaching our son to be polite and I was definitely looking for that praise to come my way. After all, if he didn't learn it from me, where did he learn it? Is it selfish of me to desire compliments in how I have raised my child? I am pouring my life, my whole self into shaping this little man. When it goes well, is it too much to ask for people to acknowledge the fruits of my hard work? My mother-in-law is always talking about how exceptional Lucas is and how fast he is learning things compared to all the other children she encounters (and she encounters a lot working with the kids at her church). But she has never once connected Lucas' advanced skills to my efforts. Should she?
People say all the time, and I have said it plenty to others, "Your child is so cute" or "He is such a smart kid." I have a friend whose son is extremely intelligent. He was saying words I still can't say when he was 18months old. I know I have told her that I think he is super smart. But have I ever told her that she is obviously doing a good job raising him? I don't think I have.
I should (and you are BTW). Her and all my other mommy friends who are doing amazing jobs raising their kids.

So that is how I feel like that lonely kicker, coming out onto the field with a job to do and a lot of people watching with expectations that I won't let them down... although we won't know if my field goal wins or loses the game for at least a few years still.

Side note- my husband reads my blog regularly but never comments.... this might be the perfect time to start, dear. I would love to know your thoughts. :)

2nd side note- my southern fellow football fanatic friend posted about the same game I was watching. She had a lot more riding on it than I did and it all turned out in her favor... check it out!


Catherine November 25, 2007 at 1:10 AM  

This debate is always raging in my head, and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I think I've really come to a place of understanding where I fit in it though.

Here's where the love/hate comes in to play - if I take credit for a quick, smart, "ahead of the pack" child, am I to blame also if I don't have that kind of child? For example, my breastfeeding saga. Am I to blame for what I could not give him? Also, my son is behind in language. Does this mean that I get the "credit" for that? If I were a different kind of mom, would he be more advanced?

No. Because he IS a great sleeper, and a very happy child, and those are the things I'm proud of. I think that seeing the ways kids are different from each other has helped me to reconcile this in my own head. I think our kids are born with certain potentials, certain areas of strength and weakness, and then we are the stewards of that, we can help it along, or we can not.

For example, I see so many ways that my hard, hard, hard intentional efforts contributed to his happy personality and fantastic sleep habits. So I DO take credit for it, because I worked hard for it. But I know that if I'd had a different child, I would have done all the same work with less payout. And I'd still take the credit for the work. Like I do with my efforts at his verbal skills, though the payout isn't the same as others see.

This is easily the longest comment I've ever written, and I hope I didn't hijack your post...

The Pitter Patter Boutique November 25, 2007 at 7:49 AM  

Hey! Thanks for the great advice about the set up of the tables at a show. I will definitly do something like that for my next one on Dec. 1st. I am still interested in an advertising swap. I am in the process of having my blog turned into a full functioning store/website. So once I get all that up I would love to just swap links.

Enjoy your day!

TwoSquareMeals November 25, 2007 at 10:24 PM  

Thanks for the encouragement. I think Catherine is right on. My boys are so different, and Calvin really is amazingly smart. I can't take credit for his being able to say long sentences at 14 months. But I can take credit for his learning to say "Fyodor Dosteyeckyecky" because his mom happened to be reading "Crime and Punishment." Hobbes is 20 months and still only has about 30 words, but he has been in the same environment, been read poetry by his aunt and me, been talked to just as much. Kids are different, and we nurture the talents that their creator gave them.

And I do so feel like the place kicker. As long as I keep kicking it between the uprights, no one notices me, but that one miss can be crushing. Do you know what I notice about good coaches and teammates, though? They never blame the kicker or lecture him on the sidelines. Good teammates say that they should have done more so that it didn't come down to one kick. Good coaches pat the kicker on the back and move on. I know it is cheesy, but I think God is a pretty good coach. He doesn't get hung up in our failures. And I hope we have some good teammates around us in this game.

And that game last night almost put me in the emergency room! I linked to your post in mine today.

Rachael November 26, 2007 at 7:50 PM  

The old nature vs. nurture debate. I would say the answer is both/and ;). Lucas is by nature a polite kid, and you're enhanced that by teaching him the social norms to express that in our culture.

David is somewhat the same way - he is very laid back and easy-going. But I also am on the ball with setting boundaries of what is and isn't ok - so he's generally compliant by nature, but has learned which rules to follow b/c of my influence as a mom.

Heather November 27, 2007 at 1:32 PM  

Great post, Farrah! While so much does depend on what we as mommies do for and with our children, we can't always take credit for what they do or don't do. Somethings they will excel at in spite of us!

I think most importantly we need to follow our parenting instincts. That's when I feel confident that I am doing the best for my child, whether she's ahead of the curve or not.

baby love slings daddy November 29, 2007 at 10:53 PM  

Since my wife has called me out ... First, I think that just about everything Lucas has learned, he has learned from his mommy. That includes his politeness, his incredible vocabulary, and his enormous spatial awareness and aptitude. By the sheer amount of time that Lucas and his mommy spend together, there's no doubt in my mind that he's learned all of this from his momma. I am nowhere near as consistently intentional about this as she is.

When I said that Lucas' politeness was part of his personality, it wasn't in response to the question of whether his mommy should get credit for it or not. The question was an open-ended one, "How did Lucas become so polite?" My answer that it's part of his personality is in no way trying to discredit my wife's contribution.

If anything, it's to say that his personality has been formed and shaped by a momma who had taken the time to encourage and reinforce these positive skills and traits in his personality.

No child is capable of learning or developing without the influence of parents who are intentional about it, especially mothers.

I think the analogy of a kicker is a perfect one for moms, but not because they are either the hero or the goat. Rather, the kicker is a a reliable, dependable, crucial part of the team. The kicker is called on multiple times a game to kick field goals, kick-off balls, and even on occasion deliver a touchdown-saving tackle. Kickers are often their teams highest-scoring player, because like clockwork, they are called into all kinds of situations, game after game, to put points on the board. Sometimes to win the game, and sometimes to extend a lead or play catch-up. Regardless, they are faithful to do their jobs.

In the same way, mommies -- especially my baby's mommy -- demonstrates the same consistency, daily kicking the ball, knowing that once in a while the kick will bounce off the upright or get blocked. But more often than not, she's putting points on the board, helping her team stay in the game.

Baby Love Slings


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