Why it’s so frustrating: You worry she’ll miss out on friendships and exercise. But really, your ego
is in play. “Any parent who had a sport they identified with will get their yearnings and projections triggered when a child gets to the age to begin playing,” says Markham. “If it turns out the child has no interest or ability, the parent may very well feel let down.”
How to meet halfway: First, you’ve got to grieve. “The faster parents can mourn the fact that they’re not going to have a superstar on the field, the faster they’ll realize how much more free time they’ll have on the weekends,” says Whitney L., a former college athlete and a mother of three. And the faster you can help your child find a passion of her own. Let her try yoga, rock climbing, or karate. “Ask lots of questions to help your child make a good choice, like what she thinks the activity will be like, why she wants to try it, and what she thinks might be hard about it,” says Markham. Look for a trial ballet class, or attend a practice or clinic before you commit. “There is no reason to make a young child stick with something she knows right away that she hates,” says Markham. “Even 4-year-olds should have the autonomy to express their preferences.”
Dealing with the reverse:
If your kid sees more value in athletics than you do, “research coaches and clubs that promote the values you want your child to develop—sportsmanship, commitment, and a focus on development, not results,” says Lauren Gallagher, PhD, a school psychologist and cofounder of Sync It Up Sports. Hit up other parents for the basics (if it’s lacrosse, be prepared to be confused), then just cheer.