Watching the Bloom
Parallel process is a clinical term used to describe the common occurrence in therapy when the therapist’s own experience is reflected in the client’s. It is when a client comes in grieving over the loss of a loved one while the therapist has only just experienced his or her own loss as well. It is a therapist helping a client through feelings of anger and hurt that the therapist has also just recently confronted.
But, here’s the thing: we are all in parallel process. Too often in life it goes unsaid.
Here is where I say it.***
The girl who sits next to me in my statistics class each week looks to be in her late twenties. I already know from her comments in class that she is working on a Ph.D. in Exercise and Physiology.
I notice that her bag has a picture of a volleyball on it with the insignia from a state university. I smile.
“Did you play volleyball in college?”
“Sure did. It is what paid for my school!”
“How old were you when you got started?”
I must look surprised because she continues.
“I hated organized sports when I was little. A friend of mine talked me into showing up for the pre-tryout clinic in high school. I loved it!”
She smiles with an air of conspiracy.
“I made the team. She didn’t.”
I listen as she tells me more about her volleyball career. I murmur agreements and understanding, sharing a little about my own sport experiences. I express my hope that my kids will choose to play a sport like I did.
“There is a misconception, you know”, she tells me. “People think that you have to get your kid specialized in a sport from an early age. Research tells us that just isn’t true.”
I smile and think about how her very own story proves that premise.
I played tennis growing up. A lot of tennis. And, if I am honest I have a part of me that would love for one of my kids to pick it up. We go out and play as a family, but it is yet to be seen if a true love for it will grow in any of them.
It waits to be seen.
I think many of us parents fall for the misconception that this new friend of mine expressed. We remember how much we loved what we did…or we remember how we missed out on something that we wish we had done…something we wish our own parents had made time for…
and we push.
If you read here you will see that I am a believer in getting kids involved in the community in various activities. I make it clear that becoming a star athlete is not the goal.
What I am learning is that we have less control over what they “specialize” in than I may have thought.
When I was very, very young my mother took me to violin lessons. I loved the IDEA of taking violin, but those lessons ended when I cried every time we practiced. I will admit that later there was a part of me that wished my mother had MADE me keep going.
So, I thought, I am going to MAKE my girls just do it! There will be no question…we won’t practice HOURS a day. It will just be a little bit every day and we will keep it up! They will thank me for it one day!
That’s when the actual taking lessons and practicing part happened. Turned out that my oldest daughter liked violin lessons less than I did.
Also turns out mom has to do bear most of the burden of the practice and the crying when a child is taking lessons at age four.
My dad took me out to play tennis when I was little. My first memory of going out with him was probably at about age 5. As I got older I could not get enough.
In the past I have given my dad a lot of credit for that. I believed that he made me stick with it…that, in a large way, he created the tennis player that got a scholarship to college.
Then I took my own daughter out to play. I’ll never forget my oldest saying to me: “Mommy, I think tennis is more your thing than mine.” She was four.
And, that’s when I realized that it wasn’t my dad who took the ball hopper out to practice for hours at a time all by himself just on his serve. That was me. It wasn’t my dad who would call and set up play times with three different people in one day just to practice. That was me.
Sure, parents have to be available and invest time and resources. Absolutely. They have to introduce kids to sports in the first place. But, no amount of money or time invested by my mom could have made me want to hold the violin bow for hours a day.
I have passed the buck to my mom and my dad too many times.
I didn’t like violin. I loved tennis. That was about me. It was not about my parents.
And, this time it is about my kids.
…it is not about me.
Last summer my oldest discovered competitive swimming. And all of a sudden she’s the one reminding me to put her goggles in her bag, to remember her hair tie, and which days she has practices. She’s the one telling me afterwards how she figured out the rhythm of a certain stroke.
She’s no Michael Phelps, believe me, and she might very well change her direction when it comes to a sport or any other extracurricular activity.
She might end up playing handbells. Who knows.
But, here’s what I am learning, what I think I learned a little bit more from my conversation with my new friend who sits next to me in statistics.
I am learning to enjoy watching the bloom that is my child’s life.
I almost called this post “The Unwrapping”, but I quickly decided I did not like that title and here’s why.
In unwrapping a gift we have a very active part. In fact, if we do not do anything, there is no unwrapping.
We are in control. We rip off the paper to reveal what is inside.
When it comes to my child that is not my job at all.
My job is to cultivate the ground, to water, and provide sunshine.
God is in charge of the blooming.
In reality, I have absolutely no control over that.
I cannot control whether Eloise, Lillian, Emmett, or Hillary will like the feel of a tennis racquet in their hand.
I can put the racquet there. I can make time for us to play. I cannot create passion. That is God’s doing.
We like to put our hands all over things. Our culture teaches us to strive and to reach for the top and if a little is good a lot must be better. If this age is good then even younger must be better.
We forget that Someone else has a role in how things go.
This is when I got a surprising reminder from God.
I’m still blooming, too.
I don’t know what tomorrow or next year will look like. I have no idea what opportunities or challenges are ahead of me.
I can cultivate the ground around me, provide water, and sunshine.
But, I cannot unwrap my life course. I cannot force what will turn up underneath all that paper.
I can make choices and prepare. I can put skills in my hands and make time for practice and experience.
I cannot create God moments or open doors.
That is God’s doing.
I’ll be honest. This idea can cause a lot of anxiety.
It is also incredibly thrilling.
Like riding up the ramp of a rollercoaster, your stomach is a little queasy in anticipation…but then comes the ride…the adventure.
I am learning to cultivate, to water, to provide sunshine…to do my best to prepare and make time…for my children…and for myself.
For SURE all of those things are important. My daughter will never progress in swimming if I don’t drive her to practice.
But, she has to do the strokes. She’s the one who has to get in the water.
I am learning to enjoy watching the bloom.