Most people who have raised children know the black hole-like pull that youth sports – and activities in general – can have. It seems there is never an end to the number and type of engagements one can sign their child up for, and the fear of missing out (I’m not sure if this applies more to parent or child), leaves us yearning to squeeze just one more obligation into packed schedules.
Sometimes push comes to shove and, when adding another event to the calendar, we see the dreaded roadblock — something else has already parked itself there.
Such an incident happened recently in regard to my son Tyler, and navigating the nuances of it offered a lesson that transcends child’s play and moves squarely into adult work.
Tyler plays tackle football – a program that demands an astonishing amount of time and commitment. I also signed him up for flag football – a program that requires a very small commitment of time, but feels more like fun and less like a job. Toward the latter end of the tackle season, I was approached by the flag coach, who asked if Tyler could play in an upcoming tournament. After consulting the calendar and making some inquiries, I determined he would very likely have a tackle football playoff game on the same day as the flag tournament. This, I told the coach in an email outlining my position.
That’s because, despite my best efforts, the flag guys (one of whom is my neighbor and good friend), good-naturedly signed Tyler up anyway, telling me they understood our primary commitment was to the tackle game, and so we would only attend the flag tournament if schedules allowed. So far, so good.
Of course, the final schedules for the day didn’t allow. Thus, I sent the following missive:
Hi Frank – Based on a 3PM start time for the tackle game (which will likely require a 1:30 arrival time), I can’t commit to stay at the flag tournament until 2.
Very sorry about this as Tyler was so excited to play.
I could commit to stay until 12:30 but I understand that would not work for you.
Best – Anthony
With this, I was sure I was finished, but the flag folks would not be turned away so easily. Frank responded (despite his earlier stated 2 PM requirement) that staying only until 12:30 was ok. And so all was right with the world. Except all was not right with my son Tyler. That’s because Tyler wanted to stay for the whole flag tournament, tackle game be dammed. And therein came an opportunity to teach a valuable life lesson I feel very strongly about.
You finish what you start. You fulfill your commitments at all times, not just unless something better comes along.
In our line of work here at healthsystemCIO, doing our jobs depends on other people not only making commitments to us (interviews, webinar speaking engagements, etc.) but fulfilling them. I have dealt with people who see those commitments in different lights. I have dealt with some who honor them over and over again, despite having fantastically busy schedules; and I have dealt with people who don’t seem to put the same gravitas on an accepted calendar invitation as I do. I know the effects of having someone renege on a commitment and I don’t like being on the receiving end of it. I also know that when that’s done repeatedly, it changes my perception of the individual in question.
I do not want my son doing going down that road. I tried to explain this to him every carefully. Of course, he’s 10 and wants to do what he wants to do. However, because he is a 10-year-old, I get to make his decisions for him, despite his best tantrums to the contrary. What’s the goal here? That by the time Tyler gets to make his own decisions, he’s absorbed what I think is the right framework in which to put individual situations. If he doesn’t take my word for it, the painful but valuable loop of cause and effect should do the trick.
Of course things come up and there are times we must break our word, but they should be few, far between and involve exceptional circumstances. We should do what we say we’re going to do for many reasons, most of which involve it being good for us in the long run. But there’s one more reason to do what you say you’re going to do — and that’s because it’s right.