Encouraging kids to be independent and follow their dreams

Growing up I was a huge tomboy. All I ever wanted to do was play sports, climb trees, build cities in the dirt for my matchbox cars and play more sports. There were many nights I fell asleep with my baseball hat still on.

I had short, short hair. I wore baggy, boyish clothes. Most of my friends were boys. I was rough and tough and loved my life that way. I never once thought about playing with Barbies or having tea parties.

Actually, I’m still like this in many ways. If given the choice, I’d shave my head (I despise hair), never change out of basketball shorts and watch or play sports all day long.

Amy in kindergarten

I probably took for granted the flack my parents may have gotten for allowing their daughter to run around like a boy. But I absolutely love that they allowed me to follow my dreams.

When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was always a professional baseball or football player. I was obsessed with collecting baseball, football and basketball cards. And when the weather didn’t permit me playing outside, I looked at my cards over and over again.

soccer

My parents never forced me into doing anything. They allowed me to be the person I wanted to be. I played football in junior high and loved every minute of it. While I’m not sure all of my coaches or teammates appreciated the fact that there was a girl on the team, no one said anything to me about their disapproval. My mom later told me that sometimes parents would ask her why she would let me play … wasn’t she worried that I would get hurt? Her response was something along the lines of: “aren’t you afraid my daughter will hurt your son?”

junior high football

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve embraced my femininity a little bit.

Okay, just barely, but still.

I have long hair, even though its in a ponytail or bun 99% of the time. I occasionally wear makeup and my ears are pierced. I still prefer my basketball shorts and t-shirt over anything else though.

And then there’s my kids …

I have three girls. Very girly girls. I don’t understand a lot of how they act or why they like what they like, but I know how important it is for them to be who they want to be. They love wearing pink and frilly clothes. They love to dance and sing and play with Barbies and wear makeup. Lucky enough for me, they also love playing in the mud, soccer, running hard and wrestling with each other.

There are so many options out there these days for activities and interests that our children can be involved in. It’s important as parents, teachers and coaches that we encourage them to follow their dreams and not be afraid to try new things, even if you’re breaking the mold.

Let them make their own decisions. Let them fall down and learn to get back up. Let them explore and try new things. It may take many experiences before they find their passion.

I know one thing I never wanted to be in life – a cheerleader. But that’s what I’ve become.

I may roll my eyes when my kids crank the music in the house and start dancing and twirling around. But I’m glad they have a dream, and who knows, maybe someday my 4-year-old will become a ballerina and a Queen!

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