Richer Soil

The heather bush I planted in my front yard a few months ago is not doing well. It’s not dying, exactly, but it’s not thriving either.  So I decided this morning to replant it in another location with more sunlight and better drainage — hopefully this will be what it needs to grow bigger and produce its wonderfully fragrant flowers in the Spring.

Strangely, transplanting has been a theme for me lately, including with the kids (okay, and maybe with a few other plants as well!).  

Ben has been on a gymnastics team for the past 18 months, training 8-12 hours per week, year-round, not including weekend meets during competition season. In short, lots of hours. He has been very dedicated to the team, loves the sport, and has formed some strong bonds with the other boys on the team.  

But lately, he hasn’t been thriving.  He’s been less and less excited about going to practice, and generally more anxious as he’s progressed.  I talked to his coach about it, to see if he had any insights, and I understood Ben’s anxiety immediately. His coach is Russian, and a very accomplished gymnast (if you follow men’s gymnastics, you’ve probably seen him on TV).  If a boy has serious aspirations in gymnastics, this is the coach to train with.  However, he’s very, well, Russian.  He doesn’t believe in “smiling, or giving high-fives every time they do something well, because the judges won’t either. They need to get used to that.” 

He has a point — gymnastics is a sport of concentration and discipline, one of the only sports where points are taken away from the athlete.  But Ben is the kind of kid who needs to know that he’s doing the right thing; he needs positive feedback. Not for every little thing, of course, but an occasional pat on the back goes a long way.  Just a few minutes into this conversation I knew that Ben had gone as far as he could in this sport — the sport, and especially the coaches involved in it, are just too intense for him.

So, we made a change. What Ben loves about gymnastics is being in the air “flipping and spinning”, which led us to diving.  From the very first practice it was clear that this environment is completely different.  The main coach and both of the assistant coaches are all positive and enthusiastic, while still demanding a lot from the divers. Ben is in heaven, and declares after every practice “I’ve found my sport!” 

Ensuring that our kids are surrounded with positive and supportive teachers, coaches, and caretakers is one of the hardest, but most important, challenges of parenting.  Yes, they need to learn to deal with all kinds of people, including difficult ones, but plenty of those people will show up along the way.  While my kids are still young and forming, I strongly believe that settling for “good enough” in someone who will spend a significant amount of time with them is not good enough — I need to invest the time in finding the healthiest situations and the wisest people so my kids can flourish and blossom to their fullest potential. And with Ben, I can already see the difference — and I didn’t even have to wait until Spring!

About Lori Dunlap

Lori Dunlap worked for almost twenty years in the corporate world, first as a management consultant to Fortune 500 companies, and then at a large research university as a program director and adjunct faculty member. In addition to homeschooling her two sons, she writes regularly about education and parenting issues. You can read her blog at, or connect with her on Facebook:

Posted on September 28, 2012, in Common Concerns, Education, Parenting. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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