As parents, one of the most challenging balances that we often have to strike is finding that harmonic convergence between imposing limitations while also instilling confidence.
It’s the battle we’re fighting right now in our house in trying to get our 5 year-old to break out of some of her little-kid comforts and push herself to try new things while, simultaneously, trying to keep an eye on her and stop her from somehow getting hurt in the process. Just last year, we couldn’t get her to ride a swing. Like, the rinky-dink swings at the park that we all know and love? She ain’t want no parts of it. Now, she’s comfortable with the swings, but she insists on riding stomach down and head first (sorta like she’s flying).
This presents an odd conundrum for both my wife and I. Yes, we’re happy to see that she’s finally gotten up the gumption to take on the dreaded swing set, but she’s decided the optimum utility for said swing is to be used in a manner that could actually be more dangerous than if she just did it the right way.
This is the age-old parenting conflict between confidence and limitations manifest. Yes, we want to the kid to overcome her fears, but we also don’t want her to do so in a manner that’s unsafe or irresponsible. Swing, little girl. Swing to the highest of heights because we believe in you and want you to soar to the lengths that life will take you. But please do it seated properly because we can’t have you bustin’ your little head open out here trying to be cute.
It’s the same thing with new foods. New places. New people and even new activities. When she was 3, we signed her up for soccer and she hated it. Last weekend, we went to a soccer themed birthday party and you woulda thought she was Neymar. She was pursuing, cutting, slashing, kicking, and showing flashes of athletic aggressiveness that I honestly didn’t know she had in her.
As we left the party, I asked her if she had fun and if soccer is a game she’d like to play more often, maybe even in a league. She responded with a resounding “yes” with an accompanying fist pump (so you know it’s legit) which immediately sent my mind down the rabbit hole of imagining myself as the Dad-Coach who unlocks the sports prodigy in my child.
I could be Earl Woods.
I could be Richard Williams.
Wait, even better, I could be LaVar Ball.
For those unfamiliar with the name, LaVar Ball is the patriarch of the Ball Family known for producing three of the most prolific young talents in college and high school basketball today; Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo respectively. These Ball Brothers are not to be confused with the Christian Rock Group that you may have just Googled. Nah, these young men are trying to disrupt the game of amateur basketball.
Don’t believe me, take a minute to watch this…
You may have seen Lonzo Ball playing for UCLA in this year’s NCAA Tournament. If you haven’t, you’ve probably heard some rumblings about his daddy’s propensity to talk prolific shit in the direction of any hot mic placed within ten feet of his person.
Let’s just do a quick inventory of the people LaVar Ball has besmirched in the past ten days alone:
-Michael Jordan’s sons
-Magic Johnson’s sons
-Every team in the NBA that’s not the Los Angeles Lakers
-Charles Barkley’s kids
-Charles Barkley’s dogs
-Charles Barkley’s ability to score in the post
The list goes on, but you get the point. When it comes to talking about his kids, their talent, and his expectations, LaVar Ball isn’t one to hold his tongue or tamp down expectations. Honestly, it’s inspiring. Here’s just a smattering of some of his gems…
“These boys were born to go pro. Your mom’s a P.E. teacher, I’m a personal trainer, your last name is Ball. How much more lined up can you be?”
“Why Shouldn’t He (Lonzo) Be No. 1? He’s Earned It”
“Somebody Has to be Better than Michael Jordan, Why Not You?”
To a dad like me who’s still getting frustrated trying to give my daughter the confidence to do basic things like tie her own shoes and spell, LaVar Ball is a shining example of the rewards we get to reap when it all comes together. You get to talk major shit and, if and when your kid is just as good as billed, you can back it all up.
Which gets me to my overall point, LaVar Ball has earned every right to talk as greasy as he wants to about him and his kids. His oldest son is poised to be the first or second pick in this year’s NBA draft. His youngest son dropped 92 points in a high school game a few weeks ago, and, for good measure, his middle son is averaging 30 points per game as a senior headed to UCLA next year.
For all the hell society has tried to foist upon Black men for not being there for their children, here we have a Black dad who has not only been there for his kids, but has also given them the skills and the confidence they need to become successful in their own right. Why should he have to shut up or take a back seat? Why do allow the Archie Mannings of the world the leeway and leverage to assess their own children’s talent, but when Ball does it we act as if he’s a bloviating jackass (which he kinda is, but it’s okay)?
All I’m saying is that, as a parent trying to master confidence and limitations simultaneously, LaVar Ball has shown me that it’s not about the balance if you’re working to make your kid the best at what it is they do.
Limitations be damed.
Ride that swing however you like, kid. If that’s how you wanna do it, I’ll back you up and tell Charles Barkley to kiss my ass. Just be the best you can be and I promise I’ll be on the sidelines giving you my all too.