Taking the fork in the road

When you come to a fork in the road, take it! – Yogi Berra

Being a parent and watching your children grow, change, struggle and/or thrive can be quite interesting. Every so often you recognize parts of yourself reflected through their lives. When they show some of your better traits or abilities you are pleased and filled with pride. However just as likely to appear are parts of your persona that you would just as soon skip a generation or two or ten. Making things more intriguing yet is the fact that each child is also his/her own person with unique talents, challenges and aspirations.

When our kids are young we tend to start them out on familiar paths. If we enjoyed particular sports we will likely introduce them to these as soon as or even slightly before they are ready. If music or art is in our background chances are they will give them a try as well. Reading, dancing, camping, scouting, cooking, skiing, academics, religion, etc. are examples of other interests we bring to our children to see whether they will take them up and make them their own.

Interestingly enough I have heard stories of more than a few top athletes who purposely did not encourage their children to follow in their footsteps. Some may have been wary of the pressure put on their kids to live up to what they accomplished, while others weren’t sure whether the sacrifices required to be successful in their chosen area were worth it.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to hear Bjørn Dahle, a legendary world and Olympic champion skier from Norway, speak shortly after the Birkebeiner ski race in Hayward, WI. Dahle pretty much said that he had to sacrifice a great deal to get to where he was and implied it was perhaps too much and that he didn’t necessarily want the same life for his children. Instead he wanted them to choose and follow their own interests.

In the end I don’t think it really matters what path our children choose as long as they find one or more that they enjoy and which challenges them to grow and learn.

Our two sons tried on many hats, helmets, and uniforms to varied results before landing on areas where they continue to thrive and grow. What I enjoy is that the places they have landed aren’t that familiar to me so I have been able to experience/explore these facets of our community as they have dived deeper into them.

For example my youngest son just participated in his first play at MHS with the Middleton Drama Club. What I found out? There are many truly talented and entertaining kids in our midst, and more importantly these kids are pretty amazing in the way they support and encourage each other both on and off the stage.

I feel very fortunate that my son has fallen in with such a good group of kids and teachers, which they have both also encountered in the exceptional music programs at the high school. We know several other students who have had very enriching experiences in various clubs (yearbook, art, foreign language, Model UN), and teams (debate, sports, and academic) to name a few of the many opportunities available to students in our district.

The long-winded point I am trying to make is that there are many different paths our kids can follow. The familiar ones are comfortable to us but might not be to them, and the unfamiliar ones can be quite interesting and exciting for all. It really gives me hope for the future to see what these kids can do when they come to a fork in the road and, as Yogi Berra advises, take it.

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