Where’s The Drive?
It’s a warm and humid morning as children scurry down to the football pitches, still soaked from weeks of torrential rain. Many players begin bouncing the balls off their toes, knees, chest, then head. The younger players zig and zag around each other. Some put on thin, nylon pullovers and separate into teams. I coax our daughter from the car toward the pitch. It’s the first day of football camp. As soon as we arrive she offers a prompt: “I have a stomach ache.” Given that we’ve woken up earlier than usual, fought the morning battles to get out of the house, and somehow made it on time, I am visibly frustrated by this development.
Soon, I learn the major reason for her disturbance is “nerves.” While I feel bad for her and, of course, reassure her not to worry at all, I am oddly relieved to hear her say something like this. During this past year, as parents, we’ve been battling an encroaching sense of “comfort” from our older daughter. She wants for nothing. She gets fed every night, plays with friends on the street, has a nice playroom full of toys, and a closet full of relatively fashionable clothes for a seven-year-old. We buy her nice things from time to time.
But recently, I have begun to be unnerved by our situation. Are things too comfortable? I thought about this as she began football drills. Some children seemed to be far ahead of the group of assembled players, with a look of focus and intensity I have never really seen in our own daughter. While the obvious answer is “they are talented,” I allowed myself to think maybe the problem is more insidious. Maybe my children are growing up without a sufficient sense of forward momentum.
When we lived in India, one of the things I noticed was the hunger of young Indians to climb the ladders of success. While we lived there, I could sense a palpable sense that they wanted to work hard and lift themselves up in careers that were unthinkable five or ten years ago. Moving to the US worried me; I thought that in America, our daughter would feel less compelled to push herself.
One of the hallmarks of successful people is that, in their youth, they take bold risks because they simply have to get out of the situation they find themselves in. Deprivation breeds a sense of desire to live life on their own terms, not those imposed by their economic condition. I believe children who are deprived of material comfort risk more because there is nothing tolerable in remaining in status quo. So these people open businesses, push themselves in school, take on jobs at a young age. Anything and everything to improve their personal situation. This is not to say being deprived because of economic difficulty is good or even an advantage. That’s absurd.
But as my daughter did her best on football drills, I still found myself concerned. Why are the other kids pushing themselves harder? Is our life just getting too easy and fun? Or perhaps there is an easier and even more disturbing answer: She doesn’t like football.
As an Arsenal fan, I shudder at this horrible, horrible thought.
Instead, let’s go back to the other theory: She needs a bit of a kick in the football pants to get out of her comfortable situation. (Figuratively speaking, of course.)