When I was a kid, I tried a lot of activities. I was an enthusiastic child! Skiing, skating, tennis, gymnastics, community theater, Brownies, trumpet, French horn… I stuck with some of them. But a lot of the time I was a quitter.
The way my family tells it, I couldn’t stand not being an immediate expert, and therefore quit too easily.
That’s not entirely wrong. After that one dismal season of swim team? When I came in dead last in every race and cost my relay team their dignity? I quit the minute the end-of-season-banquet pizza was cold.
But since then, I’ve discovered my own truth: I’m a multipotentialite and investigating a variety of things is what made me happy then and makes me happy now.
I think it’s okay to quit.
But when I had kids of my own, I realized that it’s not such an easy thing to decide where to draw the line on commitments. I know we’re supposed to teach our kids the value of sticking it out once we’ve started a thing. But at what point do we let them make up their own minds?
Avoiding Regrets vs. Establishing Autonomy
Sports comes to mind immediately when it comes to commitment. My kids are way more athletic than I am; they’re good at just about every sport they try – and try they did. My younger daughter excelled at aerial dance, hurdles, softball and soccer, to name but a few.
But in the end she wasn’t all that interested in pursuing any of them. As her proud mother, I wanted her to be a champion! When your kid is really good at something, you want her to pursue it. And I didn’t want her to have regrets.
But I’m not living her life, she is.
Was I going to push her to be the best at a pursuit that had lost its appeal? I didn’t, because I knew she’d find another interest soon enough. And she did. She’s like me; she’s an enthusiast, not a specialist.
When It’s Time To Push
Her older sister is the opposite. She loves being part of a team. And once she’s found her thing, she’s all in.
As a high school freshman, she was recruited to the track team. The coach had seen her running on the soccer field and wanted her on his sprint squad.
She didn’t want to do it. And I knew it was fear talking, not a lack of interest.
I strong-armed her into doing pre-season conditioning and then made a rule that she had to participate in sports for at least two seasons per year. She grudgingly joined the track team, declaring that she’d quit as soon as possible.
It became the best part of her life. She was a varsity runner for four years and has been coaching that same team for five years now.
I’m so glad I persevered. It was one of those times I was sure I knew what was best. I’d like to say that that gut feeling is always accurate. It’s not. But this time I got it right.
Personality Is The Deciding Factor
We’re all different. Some of us have to be pushed to try new things, some of us want to give up when the going gets tough, some of us want to try EVERYTHING, some of us are scared to make a change.
Of course it’s important to stick with your commitments, even when it’s hard. And it’s reasonable to let yourself off the hook when you realize you’re spending a lot of time and energy on something that isn’t adding value to your life.
The stringent rules of hierarchy and patriarchy say that only unceasing effort and consistency is acceptable, and that there is nobility in suffering. I don’t buy it.
I think everyone has different way of being in the world and understanding our children’s particular personality traits is more useful than making blanket statements about what’s Right and what’s Wrong.
Get too used to quitting, and it becomes your default. But an “I’ll stick it out no matter what!” mentality can keep you from moving on to something that might offer up unimagined delight.