“Do you think he hears what you’re saying?”
“If the coach did his job, I wouldn’t have to say anything.”
“So, if he did, you wouldn’t say anything?”
“I can’t help it; he’s my kid, I can say what I like.”
“Yeah you can, but all they hear is quack quack.”
A few years ago, I wrote an article called, Dad! It Doesn’t Help! It was about what I learned about myself when I was told by my 11-year-old son my quacking doesn’t help; in fact, he didn’t even listen to my quacking, that my quacking fell on deaf ears.
I’d quack loudly instructions, as he was about to bat; I’d sneak behind the dugout and quack softly more instructions; I’d even worked out secret duck calls so only he could understand what I was quacking about. My son also told me none of the kids liked their parents quacking.
But still, we quacked because we thought our quacking made a difference; and of course, quacking is a great stress relief.
Most of us do well at keeping ourselves together by not blurting out our stress and frustration. Yet, even for the best of us, the pressure cooker explodes. We are simmering. The heat is turned up. We think the lid is secure. But there it is. Everybody is now wary of the exploding pot.
Your child only hears the QUACK QUACK.
A duck moves gracefully across the lake. What we see up top is different to what we don’t see below the water’s surface—feat paddling at rapid speed.
We couldn’t keep those little paddling feet to just turning over and over inside of us. We feel we must protect and defend the mistakes of our kids, the good of the game, and especially let the umpire know his judgment is floored.
At a recent national baseball championship, my son was about to pitch. A scout asked me, do you get nervous and stressed when you see him out there? I said, not while he is pitching because he doesn’t see himself as a pitcher. The scout said, even though his son is in his twenties and plays the game not at a high level, he still is a mess inside watching his son when he is playing. I said, I only really feel it and am churning up inside every time my son is batting.
No matter who we are, we all feel it.
Whether it is because we relate to a parent duck and we want to protect our ducklings from anything that will harm them. Or, we can’t bear watching our child in a stressful, competitive environment. Or, perhaps, because there are 14 of our genes in him or her (the other 14 from our partner), and half of you is also out on the playing field and so you have a right to be a part of the action.
To react; to protect; to quack, is perfectly natural.
I’m not an advocate to tell parents they shouldn’t quack. But there are different forms of quacking: from harmless shouts of general encouragement; to interfering parents who feel they must keep on instructing; to some who know their judgment call is far better than the volunteer managing the game.
This is how I learnt to stop quacking.
I asked my son if it helped. I asked him what he thought of it. I got his perspective. Of course, I justified myself to him to why I quacked. Yet, for the first time I realized, this is not about me. I’m going to have to deal with my internal duck feet kicking over in my chest another way: perhaps breathe deeply, and smile, and continually remind myself it is just a game.
I made the decision to STOP. That’s it, no more. I want him to enjoy the game. I want to protect our father/son relationship and not let my ego and quacking get in the way. And, of course, I learnt to breathe deeply, smile, and remind myself it is just a game.
I decided I wasn’t going to just try to stop. Either I stop or don’t stop. If I don’t decide I’ll continue to quack. I wanted to help him by getting out of the way. That’s right, can you believe we can get in the way—a lot.
And I decided I wasn’t going to say anything in the car on the way home where my instructional quacking was worse than my public quacking.
I chose only to say, I enjoyed watching you play.
If he wanted to talk about the game I would now let him initiate the conversation… Guess what; he did. Even then I chose not to instruct. If I quacked it was only to ask questions.
In the end, I am my son’s parent. I’d probably take offense if someone told me how to behave. I’ll quack if I want to, would be my response. But in the end, I choose to look at the game through my son’s eyes and what’s best for him, and what’s best for our long-term relationship, and what’s going to help him continue to enjoy the game, excel in the game, and learn from the game.
Never forget, all they hear is QUACK QUACK.
- Mark Maguire
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