Tuesday, 18 December 2012


Sometimes,learning is a two-way street

I remember once hearing a myth about a little boy whose father gave him a baby calf.The boy was instructed to feed and clean the calf,and then to lift it over his head once every day.As the child grew, so did the calf,and the boy was lifting another half-kilo or so each day.By the time he was 15,the young man was able to lift a kicking,full-grown bull.

There has been a similar story in my own life-something my son did for me and  that your kids are probably doing for you,whether you know it or not.

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One day I was playing tennis with Rann,my ten-year-old son.Ever since he was five,Rann had been my only tennis partner.Playing on the next court was a bunch of kids,members of a local tennis team.Their coach approached me as I picked up some stray balls."Your son really hits well,"the man said.

Realizing that Rann was  not only being complimented but also being recruited,I let the guy down easy."We're just visiting here,"I said.

"Shame," he responded.

I told Rann about the coach's comments on the drive back to his aunt and uncle's house.But I was curious about what exactly the coach had seen in Rann's game.

For the past few years,Rann had been telling me about his rapid progress in school tennis.He would report he'd moved ahead of this guy.But I let it all go in one ear and out the other because,to tell you the truth,I really hadn't seen much improvement.Oh,he was making far fewer errors,and he certainly was hitting the ball ball harder;but how could Rann have been getting so much better if his old man kept beating him?

You see,I've always believed that it's the ultimate insult to compete against someone anything less than your best.And so,when Rann was five,although i never smashed the ball at his feet,I didn't throw games to him either.He had the measure himself by how well he played,not by whether he won or lost.The fact is,at the time of the out-of-town match,he'd never beaten me.

Then,after we returned home,a strange thing happened.An old friend came to town and invited me for a tennis game.This guy used to beat me regularly.When I asked if he'd kept up his game,he smiled and said,"Every day of the year."

I won't bore you with the details of my spectacular demolition of this fellow.Suffice it to say,it surprised us both.

Then,in the taxi home,I figured it out.It was Rann!As his tennis had improved,so had my own.Like the boy with the calf that got heavier every morning. Rann had got better each time out.And like the boy who lifted the calf,I had lifted my own increasing burden.

Rann was forcing me to cultivate my own abilities-to discover new strenght and new resolve.He was teaching me that I could work harder,strech further,go longer.And he was doing this in increments so small I never realized it. 

I bet your kids are doing this.In a thousand ways you never even thought about,they're making you pick yourself up a notch.They work on the quality of your caring and composure.They teach you when to surrender,when to hold firm.

I saw it in tennis,but it's happening in every phase of our lives.While you're teaching and nursuring your children,they're expanding you,sharpening you,polishing you,making you better tennis players,better parents-and better people.

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