AIM HIGHERApr 15th, 2011 | By admin | Category: Alison Lebovitz, In Every Issue, Life With Kids
by Alison Lebovitz
When it comes to my own children, instead of offering them a spoonful of sugar, I inject them with a healthy dose of reality. They want Mary Poppins, and I give them Dirty Harry.
Our ten-year-old son, Arthur, is really into basketball these days. Actually, he is really into sports in general – he reads the sports page every morning, turns on ESPN every night, and shares random sports facts and stats with anyone who will listen. So it should have come as no surprise to me when the other day, as he was shooting hoops in the driveway, Arthur turned to me and asked, “Mom, do you think I could play in the NBA one day?” And of course, being the loving and supportive mom that I am, I looked him straight in the eye and without hesitation said, “Nope.”
Apparently this was not the one word answer he was looking for. Crestfallen and on the verge of tears, he demanded to know why I would say such a mean thing. I told him I wasn’t trying to be mean, just honest. I then pointed out that he simply didn’t put enough energy into the sport and that practicing a couple of hours a week did not constitute a serious effort and would not get him into the pros. And to further prove my point, I asked, “Do you think you are as good at basketball as Daddy?” He shook his head. “And do you think Daddy is as good as an NBA player?” He reluctantly shook his head again. “Well, then according to the transitive property, you are not as good as an NBA player, so there is your answer.” I always knew that transitive property would come in handy one day.
Ironically, anyone will tell you that I am the eternal optimist, the hopeless romantic and the ultimate dreamer. And yet, for some reason, when it comes to my own children, instead of offering them a spoonful of sugar, I inject them with a healthy dose of reality. They want Mary Poppins, and I give them Dirty Harry. That’s because the aspirational side of me that wants to assure my children they can do and be anything they want is balanced by the practical part of me that needs to protect them in the event that they don’t.
When my husband came home from work that evening, Arthur immediately told on me. And fortunately my husband was prepared with the perfect pep talk, and told our son that he could certainly achieve anything he wanted to, but only if he working hard, stayed focused and was willing to commit 100 percent effort. I told him that’s exactly what I meant when I said, “Nope.”
So every day that week, Arthur dedicated every free moment to living, breathing and sweating basketball. He kept a running tab of every hour he spent running drills, taking shots and practicing all his moves. By all accounts it seemed he had learned a valuable lesson. And, ironically, in the middle of that same week, I learned one as well.
My husband and I attended a luncheon at which the keynote speaker was a woman named Bonnie St. John. Among other things, Bonnie is an author, life coach and Olympic medalist in skiing. Bonnie also has just one leg. She talked about all the possibilities and opportunities she has had in her life – ones that certainly seemed to outweigh any challenges or barriers for her. Bonnie talked about dreaming big and living even bigger. And then she shared the story of a mother whose son had been terribly burned, and asked Bonnie if her child could ever hope to lead a normal life. Bonnie said she knew the mother wanted a simple, one syllable response. She wanted to hear the word, “Yes.” But Bonnie couldn’t give that to her. Instead, Bonnie looked the mother in the eye and said, “No. Aim Higher. Aim Higher.”
As a tear ran down my eye I looked at my husband and knew exactly what he was thinking. “I didn’t give Arthur very good advice the other day, did I?” I asked. And I too was looking for a response that would alleviate my guilt. But what he gave me was a one-syllable answer that sounded all too familiar – “Nope.”
That evening, while tucking Arthur into bed, I told him how sorry I was for responding so abruptly and negatively to his question. I told him he could definitely play in the NBA, or the NFL or any of those acronyms one day and that I wasn’t there to ever crush or question his dreams, but instead to make sure he never gave up on them. And finally, I promised him that from now on I would always aim higher. Just like he does.