03 April 2013

To Push or Not to Push, That is the Question - Pour Your Heart Out

Teddy started getting into Pokemon a few years ago.  It started with sitting on Daddy's lap, watching him play the video game.  Then it turned into him playing the video game on his own.  A little more than a year ago, he started playing the card game at our local league.  He really seemed to love it, and it helped that he was doing really well during his first few tournaments.  A second place at a pre-release tournament.  A third place at a Battle Roads.  He was excited to go to League every Sunday and pull out his deck, testing it against anyone who would play with him.  He started making friends among the other Junior-level players.  He was happy.
Teddy hamming it up at a recent tournament.

Until he started losing.

With each loss, he'd get upset and start crying.  He'd swear that he didn't want to play anymore.  Sundays he would ask to stay home instead of go to League.  And if there was a tournament, he didn't care if he went or not.  Or if he did go, he'd play his DS the whole time he was there instead of breaking out his deck to play with his friends.  It wasn't the Pokemon that he stopped enjoying - it was the card game.

Before I had kids, I'd sworn that I would never push them to do anything they didn't want to.  (Well, except go to school.  That's kind of a requirement.)  If they didn't want to play a particular sport or an instrument, they didn't have to.  If they didn't want to go to college, they didn't have to.  The important thing was that they were happy.  Because I knew that the surest way to make them hate something was to force them to do it whether they felt like it or not.

And I still believe that it's more important for my kids to choose their own activities, to find what they enjoy.  But when it comes to Teddy and Pokemon, I'm finding that it's so much more difficult.  Because I don't know whether his desire to not play any more or that he's annoyed because it isn't easy any more.  If it's the first, then I won't push him but if it's the second.... that won't be sending the right message.

Teddy has the same problem in life that I did.  Intellectual things come to easy.  He's always been able to catch on to things quickly and it's made him think that everything should be easy.  He doesn't have the patience to work at things because he hates to fail.  And rather than try to keep learning, practicing, getting better, he convinces himself that he'll never be able to do it so why try?  And that's not a lesson that I want him to learn.  It's the path I took through life, and it's why I'm sitting here without my degree, 20 years of being a semester away from graduating.  He deserves better.

I've tried asking him why he doesn't want to play and he gives me a non-committal shrug.  And I don't think it's because he doesn't want to tell me but because he honestly isn't sure himself why he doesn't want to play.  He just knows that he's not having as much fun with it anymore and not thinking about it beyond that.

So here I am, trying to decide which instinct to follow.  Do I put my child's happiness first, following a rule I set down before he was born to not force something he doesn't enjoy, or do I try to continue making this a lesson about what perseverance can give him?  If I could guarantee that he'd get better and start winning again, I'd know what route to take.  But life doesn't have guarantees, particularly with the talented kids we have playing at our league.  He could end up getting no better and just hating it more and more.  I have no way of knowing.

I suspect I'll try to keep him going for a little while longer.  Try to get him to keep playing so maybe, just maybe, the regular practice will help him play better.  And hope that there will come a time that I won't regret this decision.