Yesterday I mentioned to the two oldest boys that we’re thinking of signing them up for baseball this summer. As expected, I got two very different reactions.
Oscar: Sure, Daddy.
Xander: No! I won’t go! If you take me I’ll throw the ball at people and run away! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME GO!
The two of them have such different personalities. Oscar, the second child, is adaptable, flexible, willing to try new things with very little fuss. Shawna took him to visit the preschool we’re thinking about enrolling Maliah and him in for two days a week in the fall, and he reported that it was “so fun—there was nothing un-fun in it at all.”
Our first-born? Totally different story. Anything new or unexpected is terrifying.
We’ve talked about it and he can articulate exactly why he doesn’t like trying new things: “I don’t like doing anything where I have to meet new people or new teachers. And I don’t like doing things I’m not good at.”
What can you say to that? Those are legitimate anxieties. I was the same way when I was a kid. I cope better now that I’m older, but new things are still scary. I think most people feel that way.
So we’re trying to work with him on this. It’s a fine balance: I feel it’s our job as parents to challenge him and help him grow. The last thing I want is to be one of those parents who hovers over their kids every step of the way and does everything for them, because I’ve seen what those kids look like when they’re in their 20s. But on the other hand, I don’t want to push too hard and scar him for life either.
So far we’ve faced some major meltdowns on this journey. Xander goes to a homeschool co-op on Friday mornings that he loves now, but the first time we sent him he absolutely lost his mind. There was a whole lot of screaming and crying involved. He did the same with a mini basketball camp I tried to take him to a couple summers ago. I gave in on that one; it was barely a week after I’d gotten home from Rwanda and I didn’t have the energy to fight that battle. But I plan to stick it out this summer, even if it means sitting with him on the bench while he watches the other kids and moans for a solid hour about how much he doesn’t want to be there.
He’s taken some steps. We have a list on the fridge called “Things to be Brave About.” He’s checked off his homeschool group, going to the eye doctor, getting his five-year immunization and jumping in the deep end of the pool at swimming lessons. Maybe we’ll mark off one more box – doing a recreation program – by the end of the summer.
But like so many other areas of parenting, this is one where we’re fumbling along, trying to do what we think is best and mostly feeling like we have no sweet clue. So if anyone has any experience convincing an intelligent, strong-willed five-year-old that trying new things can be fun, I’d appreciate your suggestions.