I saw myself as a provider of knowledge, hoping that my children could learn from my mistakes. I could give them a precious heads-up on what not to do (like don’t try to adopt a dog without your mum knowing)!
In some ways I was right, the parenting journey has been about learning.
But I’ve been learning from them!
I was recently reminded about the power from learning from my children at a sailing regatta a few weeks ago. My 14-year-old has been competing in dinghy racing for the last couple of years and like most parents we are his greatest supporters. Regattas run over 2 or 3 days, and are a gruelling affair of rigging, racing and recovering!
This was Biscuits first anniversary regatta, exactly a year ago he’d sailed at the same place (Royal Perth). So it was a sizzling weekend full of potential and following a promising first day of racing Biscuit was keen to get back on Sunday to push forward. There was an expectant buzz in the car as we drove that morning; today was all about getting a top ten position.
With the first race delayed it was a slow crawl to the start line, with little breeze to help. When racing did begin Biscuit got a good start, but quickly lost speed and finished at the back of the fleet. Disappointed, but determined he could recover it on race number two he was upbeat and optimistic.
But the second race did not go the way he’d imagined either, and he placed in a similarly inglorious position. Wondering if yesterdays successes were simply a fluke, demoralization stated to set in. He crossed the finish line of the third and fourth races with one boat behind him and his face was set in grim disappointment. He just wanted the whole thing to be over!
But to add insult to injury they announced a fifth race and he realised that he was going to have to do it all again. My heart sank, it felt like groundhog day. Poor kid, exhausted, despondent and destined to come in at the back of the fleet.
And now I have to confess to a shameful thought – I thought about skipping that last race.
I was so sure that he would continue to hold his position, that there wasn’t much point watching him claw his way round the course, knowing that he would be getting more and more despondent.
I was so sure that I knew the outcome I almost forgot to believe.
To believe in change.
To believe in him.
I say almost because a little voice in my head questioned me – what message does that send to him? That there’s no hope? That you’re not interested in watching unless he’s winning? That you don’t believe in him?
So it was with humility and admiration that I watched him turn his day around in that single race.
He fought back hard, held an early lead, broke away from the fleet, and sailed his own course. What did I see written on his face?
He crossed the line in fourth place. From 18th to 4th. On the last race.
My amazing boy, teaching me.
I asked him later ‘what did you do differently? This is what he said:
I sailed my own race and stopped following what everyone else was doing
And therein lies the lesson about self-belief from my 14-year-old.
Believe in yourself, make your own decisions
and don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd.