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You can't make your kid take a leap of faith

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  September 13, 2012 07:49 AM

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The other day, my husband and I tried to teach our 7-year-old to ride a bike. It didn't go well.

Claire_rightside.jpeg
It wasn't the first time we'd tried. We've tried lots of times, to no avail. Liam just doesn't want to do it. Mostly, he doesn't want to do it because he doesn't think he can--actually, he's certain that he can't. 

I do sort of see where he's coming from. It really is a bit improbable that one could actually balance on those two thin wheels and move forward. It doesn't matter that you see people do it all the time. To ride a bike, you have to believe that you can do it--and you have to want to try. You have to be willing to take a leap of faith.

Liam doesn't want to take that leap--and I can't make him.

Coming to terms with this concept has been one of the tougher parts of parenthood for me.

There are times when I want the kids to do something, because I think they have the talent for it and it would be fun and good for them--like when I wanted Michaela to keep taking ballet, or Natasha to try out for the school play. These are things that are stretches for them, that require a leap of faith. At this point in parenthood, I've learned to get over it when they don't want to take those leaps. After all, these are usually things that I want, not things they want. And ultimately, they don't matter.

But some things do matter, and that's when I have more trouble. There are times when my heart breaks for one of my children because I know they have it in them to learn Latin, or get out of a bad relationship, or make new friends, or swim an elusive qualifying time...and all that is stopping them is, well, them. They hold themselves back--they don't believe in themselves, or they don't have the passion or will they need, or both. I've tried encouraging, cajoling, yelling, bribing--nothing works. It has to come from them.

In parenthood, we can only take them so far. We can love them and nurture them and teach them and give them opportunities...but whether and when they put their feet on the pedals and take off down the path is ultimately not ours to decide.

I haven't given up on teaching Liam to ride a bike, though. A friend suggested I try rollerblading alongside of him, holding on to the bike. If nothing else, it sounds like fun.


 

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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