On Friday, I had a very powerful reminder of a very important lesson. I’ve often remarked that I could not be in the army as it calls for unquestioning compliance. When the general shouts ‘over the hill’, he expects everyone to obey, I’d be the one asking ‘Why?’
Many will be familiar with this scenario from their school days:
Parent: ‘Why did you do that?’
Child: ‘My friend told me to do it.’
Parent: ‘So if your friend told you to jump off a cliff, would you?’
Child : ‘No.’
Parent: ‘How many times have I told you not to follow people.’
Child: ‘What about you telling me to take a page out of the neighbour’s daughter’s book and keep my appearance tidy/ do well in school…’
Parent: ‘I’ve had enough of your rudeness.’
As a child I wanted to add that of course I would not do as daft a thing as jump off a cliff because of the negative consequences. However, whatever my friend had told me to do, at the time of deciding to do it, there seemed to be only positive consequences. What I have come to understand is that there are few absolutes.
Life will present opportunities to lead, to be led or to do your own thing and often the only time you’ll know if you’ve done the right thing is after you’ve committed the act. So how do you teach this to a kid? With difficulty. So thankfully, they’re born with their own personalities and their own capacity for understanding.
On Friday at soccer, I observed Kwame practicing skills while his 12 or so team mates were organizing themselves into teams to play a match. My heart lurched, I wanted to yell at him about not paying attention but the coach had made it clear what our role as parents was and shouting from the sidelines was not in the job description.
At the end of 4 minutes, the coach pointed out that Kwame had managed at least 50 touches of the ball by doing his own thing while the others had not touched the ball at all, as they had not finished organizing themselves into teams, never mind playing the match.
On Saturday morning, we were discussing what happened and Kwame replied he just knew that practicing was the right thing to do. Although the leader was his friend and he was tempted to follow him, he choose to do what he felt was best for him. He followed his gut instinct or as Shakespare put it in Hamlet ‘to thine ownself be true…’
Do you trust your gut?