What is it about watching your child succeed that is so darned satisfying? Is it that we see a piece of ourselves succeeding right along with them? Sometimes succeeding at things that we could never in our wildest dreams hope to be good at? I had the pleasure recently of seeing all three of my children succeed at things that they were striving so hard for and my reaction every time surprises me. Christopher’s baseball team won a very hard game and kept their playoff hopes alive for a while, Daniel managed to finally hit the baseball and get a base hit and Allison was successful in obtaining a volunteer position that she had interviewed for. All three successes brought me to tears. Not full-on bawling mind you, but choked-up-ready-to-bawl-like-a-baby waterworks.
My question is why? Why when it wasn’t me achieving those things do I become so invested in what happens? Let’s take baseball for a good example. Normally, I have exactly zero interest in baseball. I don’t play it, I don’t watch it and I certainly don’t talk statistics about it or belong to any fantasy leagues. I don’t begrudge anyone who does do those things, I just don’t find them interesting. Pro baseball is a slow-moving sport in my humble, admittedly uninformed opinion. Every time I have tried to watch a game on television I find myself drifting off to sleep.
Everything changes when my son Christopher is playing. Suddenly I want to watch every minute of every game he has. The same is true of Daniel’s games. In fact, whenever they both have games scheduled for the same time-slot it really stresses me out. I don’t want to miss anything at either game. I love watching Christopher knock one out of the park so to speak. He has a lot of power in his batting for a kid his size and age. The added bonus? In case I haven’t said so before I love to watch him run. He is so lithe. The words “poetry in motion” come to mind whenever I have the chance to see him run. Running for him seems so effortless and natural.
When Daniel is playing baseball true, it is a little different. He doesn’t have the coordination that Christopher does, but he does have his own style. He manages to run pretty fast and despite those curls of his obstructing his view he sees well enough to play the game well. He’s in an instructional league so playing well does not mean he is headed for the playoffs, but that doesn’t really make a difference here, does it? What matters is the smile of pleasure on his face when he finally connects with the ball, sending it into the field. What matters is the look of satisfaction as he makes it to first base. What matters is that he is having fun as he makes the out at second base, and he is leaning the value of team work.
Allison’s successes tend to be successes of the mind. She loves the intellect. She’s well-read, she has diverse intellectual interests and can intelligently discuss almost anything. So when she obtained the volunteer position she wanted I was so thrilled for her. She will get to put her formidable intellect to good use and meet new people in the process. This is a big win for her in my opinion. It will be her job to help people play with the materials that are provided. What a wonderful job. It’s a unique way for not only her to help other people, but for her to develop social skills that she will need as she goes forward toward adulthood.
So am I proud? Certainly. It makes me feel that I have succeeded in what I wanted most to do…be a mother. Do I obtain a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing my kids grab hold of some of the stars they are reaching for? Why not? Their successful lives are my reward for being a mother.
Things could change in the next few years. There could and perhaps are going to be some negative things happening while my children plod along the road to adulthood. There are some difficult things to navigate between where they are and successful lives as adults. I would be a fool to say I don’t worry about them. What if one of them decides to experiment with drugs? What if they find a mate who is abusive or so needy they can’t have a life separate from them? What if they don’t get into the schools they want to get into? What if they have children before they are ready to?
I could sit and worry about all these things. I really could. Sometimes I do worry about them if I’m to be honest. Things could get ugly for them if they make bad choices. But so far they are making good choices and I think I have to trust that they will continue to do so. While I know that their successes now do not necessarily prove that they will be successful adults, I am hopeful that they are getting a taste of success and will hunger for more. That hunger will make them pursue success as they grow toward adulthood, no matter what success means to them.
That’s why I think I cry when they have a small success in their lives. It’s a foreshadowing of the success that is to come.