As a Dad, we have to balance keeping our kid’s feet firmly planted on the ground and letting their dreams and inspirations drive them. Some days they want to play soccer in La Liga in Spain, all the while playing in the NFL, and let’s not forget their work as an architect. Others they want to be authors like me, which I must admit makes me all gooey inside.
I want them to be inspired; it would be hypocritical of me to squash that. I have followed my muse of being an author. I am achieving that dream. I played semi-pro football; how do I keep their inspiration alive while telling them how truly hard it is to make it to the highest levels? How do I help their inspiration become a healthy obsession and not just a fruitless, uphill battle?
Most of the time, I encourage them by saying “yes” they can do and achieve anything they want; however, it will take a lot of hard work and dedication. Other times, well, other times life has a lesson for them, that I could never teach them. The kind of lesson that you hate to see your son go through, but only him living it will make him learn it. We had such an experience this past weekend.
Lorenzo, my oldest, had a championship soccer game. It was for the local Latino league, where the competition is fierce, to say the least. He has the size, the speed, and the skill to play and honestly to excel but sometimes the fire doesn’t burn as hot as it should. The game started and he was on the bench. It was a physical and very competitive match. During the season, I kept trying to coach him up on my own. I would tell him he has the potential, but he needs to show it. Well in this type of league, where it is about the win, if you don’t’ show ‘it’ you will be on the bench. That is where he found himself, all of the first half and most of the second half.
During warm up, I saw him being too lackadaisical and tried to holler at him to focus. He brushed my concerned dad, coach-on-the-sideline, advice aside and just did his thing. As the game carried on, I could see him becoming more and more frustrated on the sideline. I felt bad; however, I knew it was one of those times when he was just going learn the lesson the hard way. Once he finally got on the field, he did ok, but not as well as he could play. The game ended, his team won the championship and he did his best to smile as all the parents furiously took pictures of the medal ceremony.
Once in the car, I asked him: “What did you learn today?” He was angry, sad and frustrated for he knew he didn’t play more because he didn’t show more during the regular season. I touched on the uninspired warm up and how if I were a coach and saw a kid warming up like that for a championship game, I would not play him much myself. He understood, but that didn’t take away his frustration or his tears. I felt bad for him, but part of me was glad he had gone through it.
It is that adversity, those moments when the world pushes back, when you truly find the fuel for your inspiration. He knows he has the skills and talents, but no one gets ahead just on their potential. It was a rough lesson for him to learn, but one he needed to experience. It is important for them to be inspired, but also to be aware of the hard work and dedication those dreams require. Not to scare them, but to truly light the fire behind those aspiration and dreams.
I always tell my boys the stories how Michael Jordan didn’t make it into his High School team the first time, hoping to have them avoid that excruciating lesson. Fortunately or unfortunately Lorenzo had to go through it.
I love my prince more than words can express, and seeing go through that hurt. But as a man and a dad I know that sometimes the only way to truly learn a lesson is to go through it. I told him: “You can’t take your opportunities for granted, you have to play every game, and every play like it might be your last. It only takes one injury and you are done. That is why I can’t play football anymore, because I got hurt.” He cried on the way home, I let him. There is no consoling from that sort of experience. You have to pick yourself up and get better.
I will continue to give the wings of their inspiration all the wind I can, but I also want to give them the determination to be able to achieve them. Sometimes I can guide them, others, I just have to be there and let them learn through life. As much as it makes me feel helpless and hurts me as well, I know that best thing I can do for them to be truly inspired is to face adversity and let their internal fire roar.