A Little Parent Perspective

I work with a lot of kids.  I have worked with a lot of kids for a lot of years.  And every year, everywhere, I meet kids – lots of them, including my own – who don’t want their parents to help with their speeches.  Or watch their speeches at a tournament.  Or look through the window of a closed door during a speech.  Or read the script of their speeches.  So, if YOU are one of the kids who feels this way, let me show you some perspective you may not have considered….

Your parents don’t think they know everything.  Let me start there.  Most of them have come right up the learning curve of competitive speech with you.  They have no desire to take charge of your speech and tell you how it ought to be done.  That is simply not their motivation for watching or listening or trying to help. Believe me, they have bigger things to be in charge of!  As a parent myself I know this.  When I am watching my kids, it is the parent in me who is most engaged, not the coach.  Can I tell you why the parent in me wants to watch my kids and help them along the way?

I chose to home school my kids for specific reasons.  One of those reasons was because I wanted to be an active participant in my children’s education.  I wanted to BE A PART of it.  Not a bossy part.  A sharing alongside part.  A warm, fuzzy, engaged in learning something together part.  So, when I am told I cannot watch or that one of my kids would simply rather not have me even look over their speeches, it actually hurts.  Now that speech and debate are part of our education, they, too, are something I want to be part of.  I just want to share in seeing my children grow.  I want to be amazed at what I see them doing.  I want to talk to them about what they are thinking about as they work through this material.  I want to talk to them about who might have really good ideas to help them.  This is not so very different from helping them find the right math tutor or an advanced science class or a competitive soccer team!  What if I never watched a soccer game???  Or listened to the honor choir sing???  Or asked how we could make math easier to understand???

I also want to be involved in helping with speeches because I want to see my kids succeed.  I do know a few things that might help.  For one, I’ve been through quite a bit more school than they have.  I’ve lived through a lot more history than they have.  I’ve also seen a lot more speeches over the years than they have.  I’ve had to articulate on ballots myself why I did or didn’t like something which means I’ve spent time actually considering what makes one speech better than another one.  When my kids think I am nit-picking at their work, I am actually trying to show them some of those very things, so they will have the advantage when they get into a round.   Even if I were not a coach, I would still have this knowledge, and I would still want my kids to benefit from it.  And when my kids say, “No, thank you” to my help, I sometimes hear, “Mom, you have no idea…you are so out of touch…you’ll never get it.”  Maybe I am out of touch with teenage fads.  I am not out of touch with my kids.  I know my kids better than anyone, and furthermore, I also LOVE them better than anyone else – even if they don’t want me to!

I want to watch my kids give their speeches in a round because I know that in a round they will give a much better performance than they ever give at home in the living room.  I want to see them at their very best because I am proud of the work they’ve done.  Because, sometimes I know how much has gone into those IO boards, or how hard it has been to get ready to compete in Extemp, or how crazy long it took to make that cut for the interp.  I want to applaud the effort by showing up!

I want to watch my kids compete once in a while because quite frankly, I’ve spent a lot of money on clothes and travel and food and registration and printer ink and copies and I want to at least taste what it went for!  If I bought a movie ticket, I’d sure expect to be allowed to see the show!  If you are a student, let me give you a perspective you may not have considered.  When I hear kids telling their parents that they can’t watch a round, my first thought – nearly always – is “how ungrateful!”  How ungrateful for the time and expense poured out to get you here!  How ungrateful for the love expressed by a parent’s desire to support you!  Frankly, I don’t like having that thought, but it’s genuine.  So, the parent in me also doesn’t want MY children to be exercising ungratefulness in this way.  See, I’ve worked in the public school system, and I’ve seen kids whose parents NEVER show up.  I’ve seen them struggle to believe in themselves and sometimes miss big opportunities for lack of parental support.  Since that is something we never see in the NCFCA, it does boil my blood just a little to see kids so opposed to their parents’ physical involvement when they are so ready to take the financial involvement.

Like many other activities and projects my family chooses to participate in, speech and debate should be a team effort.  I am on your team, child of mine!  If you will open the door, I am ready with my pom-poms!