What exactly is sacrifice?
Everyone has a different definition of what it means to give a sacrifice. Something that is easy for one person to give up might be heart wrenching for someone else to give up. It’s hard for us to see that, because it’s inherently unnatural for us to get into the mind of another person. We naturally see things from our own perspective.
Flexing our empathy muscles can be important for all of us, especially when it comes to being a parent. It was a long time ago that you were a kid yourself. Though you might remember it in a vague way, you probably don’t have your head really in the understanding of what it was like for you then, so you can’t get what it’s like for your child now. That’s where the work comes.
What Parents Put In
Recently I had a discussion with a mom who said that her child does not appreciate all the sacrifices she makes for fencing – family vacations, money, weekends, errands, etc. There is a lot to being a competitive fencer, and it is definitely a whole family venture. Any of us who have been in the position of a sports parent of any kind will recognize this reality.
When you are fencing parent, you are definitely pouring yourself into the sport, just as your child is. This mom was on point with that. Fencing parenting is a huge responsibility, and it’s one that’s piled on top of all of the other responsibilities that we already have to take care of.
- Planning – from making calendars to working on goals with the coach, then all the way down to planning healthy snacks to go into that fencing bag.
- Finances – fencing can be pricey, especially the more you compete. There is a major financial component and sacrifice for competitive young fencers, from gear to travel to fees. That money comes from the hard work of parents.
- Time – It simply takes a lot of time to maneuver competitive youth fencing. There is the weekly juggling of getting to and from training, which can be significant. There is also spending whole weekends and even weekdays in traveling to competitions and competing in them.
- Emotional investment – it is a big emotional investment to be a fencing parent. We can’t discount this aspect, because I think that it is a driving force when parents feel burned out. Holding it all together can take a toll.
This mom felt that the level of effort that her child put into fencing was not equal to the level of sacrifice that the parents were reaching. She said that she expected her child to at least appreciate what her family was doing and then work hard to match that sacrifice.
It’s a sentiment that I can understand. While parents aren’t really looking for a return on investment in the way that you would if you were trying to make money, they do want to see that this is all worthwhile. Why do something if the benefit is not there?
Kids Sacrifice Too
What parents, especially those who are feeling burned out, often cannot see is that their children are sacrificing a lot too! The difference is that kids are not experienced or mature enough to see the long picture of what’s happening or even to know what they might be missing out on.
It might seem like your child is something slacking off a bit on the voracity of their training, but we parents have to take things in the wider picture. It’s not just about the medals. It’s not just about the points scored. We cannot expect kids to be always super excited about what they are doing in this moment. Just like we adults are not always super excited about things that we are doing.
Are kids even sacrificing though? Yes, as a matter of fact, they are. I am a father of 4 fencers, and I can tell you with full confidence – they are sacrificing a whole lot.
- Social activities – Yes, your young fencer is making some wonderful friendships in their fencing community, and those are amazing. They are also missing out on birthday parties and afternoon hang outs or playdates. Your kids are working on the strip instead of playing with their non-fencing friends. That’s a big sacrifice for a kid.
- Down time – School breaks for many kids are about sleeping late and playing video games. Not for serious young fencers. RYC and NAC, plus other big competitions, eat up the school breaks that other kids are enjoying.
- Vacation – You’re missing those family vacations, but remember that your fencer is too! It would surely be more fun to go to the Caribbean for a week than to combine Summer Nationals with an extra two days of sightseeing in the host city.
- Other passions – Your child probably loves more things than fencing. Most young fencers end up having to choose their afterschool activities carefully. Maybe they gave up the spring play, guitar lessons or the wrestling team to be here. Those are major sacrifices for kids.
- Running hard – These kids end up eating in the car a lot. They do their homework either in the car or in a noisy club environment, or in some other places like coffee shops, libraries, etc. Often they sleep an hour or two less at night simply because of time. They can’t sleep late on weekends, and then they are carrying all of this stuff with them all of the time.
- And the list is going on and on…
Everything that you are doing, your kids are matching. It may not seem like it sometimes, but when you stop to think about it, your young fencer is doing a whole lot! Remember again, they are doing these things without the benefit of maturity that we have.
Even when your fencer seems to be taking a bit of a break, they are really still going hard. Maybe they are just feeling a little burned out too? Which is ok.
Kids don’t have to be super kids all the time. Just like we don’t have to be super parents all the time. We can appreciate what everyone is giving up.
Return on Investment
Trying to measure what you are getting out of fencing is a losing battle. In fact, it’s one that I would say you should not be fighting at all. If you are thinking of this as you put in a, b, and c, and then you expect to get x, y, and z back out, then you are going to be disappointed. Child fencers are not factories that produce things for us. Parenting a young fencer is much less tangible than that.
This does not mean that our kids should not have goals. It does not mean that there is no accountability. It means that you have to learn to measure the gains in different ways.
How many of us have, say, signed up for the gym and then not gone the way that we knew we should? That doesn’t make our effort any less important. The same is true with kids. They sign up for fencing and get gung ho about it, then sometimes that enthusiasm wanes a bit. Our job must be to push them into the right direction so that they can stick with it in the long haul. We help them to keep it all in perspective and see that there is value and satisfaction in sticking with it even when it’s not fun. That sacrifice will come back as a reward. That reward is personal growth and self-mastery.
So what is the return on investment that you are getting from all of this effort and sacrifice that you are putting into your child’s fencing? It is not something that you can measure with numbers. Hands down the best return on investment that you are getting is in little moments that add up to good feelings. They are adding up to a whole and happy life. You cannot make up for the little sacrifices that are being made each day with podium wins or rankings. That is not at all the way this will work if you are looking for fulfillment, which is what we are all looking for right?
The same is true for us parents too. Sometimes we can get frustrated with everything, and it’s ok to be frustrated. But just as we ask our kids to push through that sacrifice because it will be sweeter in the end, we need to do the same. We are then able to grow ourselves.
There is no competition between parents and kids when it comes to sacrifice. Just like we tell our fencers about competition, you are measuring your progress against yourself and no one else.