Do your kids hopes and dreams matter to you more than your own? As parents how many of us even know what are kids hopes and dreams really are? I am constantly reminded by my children that they have their own lives to live, that they need to find their own path. The balance between being there to support them and giving them that push to get going is a difficult one to find. It took me many years to get it right.
As a gymnastics coach and teacher, I have seen many parents over the years make mistakes with their kids. When I coached I usually was not one to hold my tongue and point out their mistakes; it did not make me very popular, and a little hypocritical. I made a bucket full of mistakes raising my own kids. Even though we don’t want to hear about the mistakes we are making, its actually a blessing to have someone have enough courage to tell you. I have been blessed by strong people that have loved me enough to tell me.
About 15 years ago I was coaching at a National competition in Savannah Georgia. My son Kellen, some of you now know as Coach Kellen, was my athlete. Kellen was about 15 years old at the time and a very talented gymnast. I believed this was his moment, a moment we had worked many years for. Most of the competition Kellen was at the top of the score board, but then the event that we both dreaded arrived; pommel horse. Kellen struggled with this event and there had been a lot of arguments over it. We both knew that there was a lot riding on this event. I think more was riding on that moment for me then for him.
In life we never know how we affect moments in our life. Now that I have lived almost a half of a century, I have a lot of 20/20 vision about the past. I made a lot of mistakes with my kids, but I also loved them with like they were a part of me. As a coach I think I was good at what I did. I was harsh at times and did not always stop to think how my actions affected my athletes, much less my kids as I was their father. Most of all I did not think how the pressure I put on my own son would affect him and our relationship for years to come. I forgot at that critical moment how he was one of the most precious things in my life. A coach named Barry reminded me that day and I will never forget. He probably saved me, my son and my relationship and a lot of pain.
Kellen got up to take his turn on the platform. The judge signaled him, he stepped up and gave me a look; I did not even smile, I wish I had, regret is a difficult thing to live with. He signals the judge and began his routine. Before he could even get started his foot hit the top of the pommel and he fell off backward. He stood back up still looking down, he again looked to me for support, but all I was able to give him was a head shake and a frown. Kellen began his routine again, and he fell three more times; I was shocked. Kellen signaled the judge and left the platform. He came over to me, he was worried if I still loved him; he should never have had to wonder such a thing. Instead of wrapping my arms around him and showing him how much he meant and that this moment would pass, and that it was JUST GYMNASTICS, I missed moment. I walked away, and then I came back and told him how disappointed I was and began telling him the many ways he missed his opportunity; not my defining moment for sure.
That was when the miracle occurred. Time stopped for me, I spun around hearing a voice behind me. I looked directly at Barry, a coach from another team. At that moment he extended to me the greatest gift a person can give; advice and clarity. He told me, “ that isn’t just your athlete, that is your kid…. you love him…. he loves you. This moment does not mean anything, you are father and son, “ so shut up and stop being an ass. I hated that at that moment and it took me a car ride, and a few days to get over myself and see Barry as a blessing. I doubt that Barry knows it, but he changed me forever; I never coached that way again.
Today my son is my best friend I really think the world of him, but still can’t always keep my mouth shut and just smile. We struggle with not seeing practically anything the same, but its a work in progress even 15 years later, for both of us. He is my son, my business partners and mostly he is the person that thrived as a gymnastics and was a joy to watch as a gymnast. Kellen was the most talented student that I ever taught and I feel blessed that I got a chance to see his talent. Thank you Barry, you gave us both the best gift you ever could have that day.
My advice to those of you reading this that have children. Remember that you love them when they are driving you crazy. When they fail, don’t be the one that holds them down, help them stand back up again. When they disappoint you, let them know that you also wouldn’t want to live without them. When they do stupid stuff, remember it is just stuff. Most of all cherish every single moment that you have with these special people, they will pick your nursing home some day. Lol