This year’s Winter Olympics kick off on February 9. I’m unsure how much of it my family and I will watch, but I was often glued to the television during “Olympic season” as a kid. Stereotypically, my favorites were women’s gymnastics in the summer and figure skating in winter. And, though I merely watched gymnastics, I often pretended to be an Olympic ice skater when my brother and I went to the Saturday morning open skate at our local rink.
I can easily recall the names of several gymnasts and skating champions from my childhood. But now that I’m a parent, I wonder how many were actually winners?
If they were pursuing their own dreams – and eventually reached the pinnacle of Olympic excellence as a result – they were winners. But I believe those who got silver and bronze – or never even made it to the platform – were winners as well…if their Olympic experience was a personal passion fulfilled to the best of each one’s ability. On the other hand, I’d say that if any of them – even the medal holders – were not in it for the right reason, they weren’t winners at all.
I was the valedictorian of my high school class and graduated magna cum laude with my college degree. I do have an ability to learn well and retain thoroughly, so “academic achievement” came rather naturally. But I didn’t pursue those goals from a point of passion and joy, so I don’t consider myself a “winner” in that realm. I got my “good grades” out of fear – fear that I’d be rejected if I didn’t perform “well enough.” In fact, I was so consumed with perfectionism based on academics that I didn’t have any idea what God had actually wired me for until well into adulthood. I’m not stuck in regret – God uses all things for the good of those who love Him – but I do sometimes wonder how things might have been different for me if I’d not fallen into the people-pleasing trap of “perfect” performance.
As parents, one of our main jobs is to be “students” of our children. In other words, we must purpose to discover over time how the Lord has uniquely wired each one and then do everything we can to nurture and grow what we see as His orchestration, not our own machinations. Part of that involves helping our children see reality – for example, fewer than 2,900 men hold roster spots on NFL teams every year and only 704 are starters. But there’s a lot of room in between pipe dreams and extreme utilitarianism. It’s hard work, but it is possible to help every child find and develop his or her real gifts and talents and learn to apply them to real world reality as adults.
We must play our assigned role of “assistant coach” to the best of our ability, purposing to implement the Head Coach’s game plan, not our own. If we do that, each of our children will come out as true winners.