Ask Abbie: 12-year-old wants to go to camp, convince parents

Published 12:37 pm Saturday, July 13, 2013

Question: I am 12 years old. My parents won’t let me go to soccer camp but my brother gets to go to football camp. It’s not fair. He always gets what he wants. He plays football real good. Dad told me if I played like him I could go to football camp too. I hate football. I’m not good at it but I’m good at soccer. Can you please tell my parents to let me go to camp?

Good at soccer

Answer: I will speak to your parents in a minute, but I want to tell you something first. You may not know it, but you have a purpose and your purpose is to be you. Nobody else can do what you can do best because there is nobody like you. Don’t ever let anyone convince you to be like somebody else because then there will be nobody left to do what only you can.

Now to your parents. Parents, please understand my response to you is based solely on your son’s letter. I realize I don’t know the whole story so please read the following with an open mind and know that your son approached me because he felt you weren’t hearing his voice and he was frustrated. Even if the background I was given is not 100 percent accurate, my sincere hope is for you to read my response, hear it, and find it helpful.

Consider this. A body has eyes and ears. The purpose of the eyes is to see and the purpose of the ears is to hear. It is impossible for eyes to hear or ears to see. Pretend your soccer son is a set of eyes and your football son is a set of ears. Every time you try to get your soccer son to be like your football son you are trying to make eyes hear. It will never work and you will cause blindness to the entire body if you disallow the eyes to do what only they can.

Repetitively forcing one child into the shadow of the other causes more long-term damage than is often realized. The picture of what and who the shadowed child has of his future becomes unclear and his identity gets confused. He grows increasingly not confident, insecure and feeling as though he will never be accepted. Unless you start encouraging your soccer son to walk by the side, rather than the shadow, of his brother you will jeopardize his entire sense of self.

Did you know the famous actress Sharon Stone has a sister named Kelly? Probably not. Kelly is co-founder of “Planet Hope,” which helps bring hope and assistance to homeless abused children. Even though Kelly’s purpose is not as Hollywood glamorous as Sharon’s, her work has touched at least as many lives as have her sister’s movies. Someone encouraged these sisters to develop their own purposes and now they walk beside each other.

Did you know the famous Socialite, actress, model, etc. Paris Hilton has two brothers named Barron and Conrad? Probably not. Barron and Conrad spend most of their time getting into and out of trouble. Someone did not encourage these brothers to develop their own purposes and now they live in the shadow of their sister.

It is the job of the parent or guardian to encourage each of their children’s unique purpose, even when one doesn’t draw as much fame or fortune as the other. It is only on rare occurrence that two siblings have comparable “superstar” status such as the Williams sisters of tennis fame. It is not reasonable for parents to expect this or to get disappointed if it doesn’t happen.

It may be accepted as normal for parents to have a favorite child but it is not to be accepted as normal for parents to give that child preferential treatment. Children are to be treated equally and encouraged to walk side-by-side.

If parents find themselves investing all of their time, effort and energy into one of their children, they need to ask themselves why and then search deep within for any area in their own lives that may be lacking.

It’s never too late to starting encouraging rather than discouraging each child to do what only he can do best. Parents of purposefully shadowed children have no reason to get upset or disappointed when they open the daily paper and see one child’s face for his accomplishments and the other for his mug shot.