Make It or Break It

Make It or Break It. How far would you go to help your child kick the world's butt?. My wife and I are totally into the ABC show Make It or Break it, about a group of female teenage gymnasts who have forgone normal life in pursuit of Olympic gold (my wife found the show, and then had me watch it—I think that’s important to state).

Like many slickly produced Hollywood teeny-bop formula shows, it’s both terrible and irresistible. We’ll Hulu three solid hours of it, and then still wake up the next morning dying to know if Lauren’s ever going to reconcile with her drug-addict mother. But the truly interesting part is witnessing the extreme sacrifices of both the kids and their parents in pursuit of a dream. It makes you wonder how far you’d go to help your child achieve such a goal. Would you help your kid score cortisone shots so they can compete while injured, pull them out of normal school so they can train all day, or build your vacation schedule around their events? Would you give your entire family over to the singular pursuit of excellence?

I would. I imagine most parents wouldn’t, but I actually applaud parents who push their children to be something special, even at the cost of normalcy. I don’t think being well-balanced is the best route for everyone. Sometimes a life lopsidedly consumed by an important passion provides richness and meaning. Sure, when the kids get older, they might need therapy to adjust to lives outside of the limelight. But a lot of people need therapy, no matter what they pursue. My thinking is, if you’re going to be screwed up, you might as well also have a gold medal.

I would love it if my kids become world class athletes. But I was a very average athlete, and my wife also never made it beyond basic high school sports. That doesn’t mean my kids can’t become professional athletes, but they certainly don’t have any genetic predictors of success in that arena.

But that makes me wonder what I’ll do if my children show aptitude in other areas. Athletics are relatively easy to promote. What if you notice that your five-year-old, rather than being precocious on the monkey bars, appears to be a natural politician or negotiator? How do you develop that?

My wife, I must add, completely disagrees with me. She believes that balance leads to happiness. I believe that victory, in whatever personal form it comes, leads to happiness. No matter what my kids show aptitude in, I will do whatever I must to give them every competitive advantage to win. (And part of that advantage may actually be listening to my wife regarding what makes for a good life.) Fortunately for now, it appears that my kids are primarily precocious at waking us up in the middle of the night. If there’s an Olympic sport for that, I’ll be too tired to watch it.

If you haven’t seen the show Make It or Break It, I highly encourage you to never turn it on unless you want to lose hours of your life. But if you’re already a fan of the show, join me in rooting for Emily to win it all next season. She’s my fave. ( )

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