Recently inspired by a friend’s Facebook post, which turned into a “Hey, let’s get together to catch up and talk about this!”, which turned into a three-hour breakfast (because that’s what happens when you get some adult conversation for the first time in ages and a waitress keeps bringing coffee), I’ve been thinking about how much “pushing” is necessary when raising children.

On the one hand, I don’t want to be that Pushy McPusherson that drives her kids to the brink of insanity before they’re even old enough to play a high school sport, but on the other hand, if left to their own devices, I sometimes think my children would just sit in their own filth playing XBox until their fingers rotted off and then withered away into a pile of oozy decay. As with most things, I must find a happy medium. “Happy” being the operative word here.

Some kids are naturally motivated to do anything and everything that interests them, and to do their absolute best at it. These are the kids that gleefully play three sports, take piano and flute lessons, volunteer at the animal shelter, take painting and dance classes, all while having straight As, being in student government, building houses for the homeless, and mowing lawns for the elderly. These are not my kids.

My kids have to be “encouraged” to do anything constructive, basically. Things like organized sports, lessons, practices, chores, homework, eating anything that grows naturally from the earth, etc. will not happen without me asking them (500 times) to do it. That’s not to say they’re not totally incapable of self-motivation. When it comes to things like piling up every cushion and pillow and rearranging all the furniture in the house for a makeshift parkour course or American Ninja Warrior competition, or maybe gathering up all the kids in the neighborhood for a Nerf war, or building the Taj Mahal (deconstructed, on the floor, in every room of the house) out of Kinetic Sand and PlayDoh, they’re totally self-starters.

The happy medium I mentioned earlier involves, me, too. Let’s face it, I simply do not want to spend every waking moment pushing and nagging, driving to-and-from practices, and watching them do something half-heartedly that they have no interest in doing. I’ve been that mom watching her kid sit on the middle of the soccer field and look for four-leaf clovers. During a game. I’d like to avoid that in the future.

But at the same time I don’t want my kids growing up to be lazy and lacking self-confidence that comes from learning how to participate, practice, and become good at something other racking up thousands of dollars in dental and orthodontic bills and making me moderately insane. Parenting: A balancing act full of so many tough choices. And messes.

So far I’ve been pretty lucky that they enjoy at least one sport and do well in school, but even with their moderate level of interest I still feel like I’m constantly nagging them to put forth their best effort, and I still wonder am I pushing enough? Too much? I guess I’ll find out in about 30 years when they decide exactly how much and in what capacity I ruined them.

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