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Let's Move the Goalposts

Do a quick thought experiment with me.

Imagine your son is somewhere in late middle school through early high school. Take a few moments and imagine him and all the emotion you feel for him.

Now, finish the following sentences in your head:

“If he can just….”

“I am doing everything we can to make sure he…”

“All I want is for him to….”

What did you come up with to finish those sentences? The reason I ask is because the answers to those questions are your ‘goalposts’ for him. They are finish line that you’ve created in your own head and, most likely, are the goals you are consciously and unconsciously pushing him towards.

Some of the first phrases I hear often (and say myself) are ‘get good grades’ or ‘have more friends’ or ‘get into a great college’ or ‘fit in’ or ‘make the team’ or ‘get a job.’ All in the next few years or months.

But is this what we really want? Are these the goal posts that are most important to us as parents/grandparents/teachers/mentors?

The more I speak with friends and families, the more I’m convinced we have set up the wrong goal posts. And, I think we do it because that is what everyone else around us is talking/thinking/presenting/worrying about.

In other words, we do it out of fear. Fear that they (our sons) won’t measure up. And that will reflect on us. We don’t want to be different or left out. And we don’t want our sons to be different or left out.

But is that result really the goal?

We are putting so much short-term pressure on our kids to perform – in school, in activities, even during the summer. And, sadly, neither our boys’ brains nor emotions are ready for this pressure. You can see this in rising levels of depression, addiction and suicide. All are means of escape.

If we take ourselves out of the equation, what does that do? By that I mean, if you didn’t care what “everyone” else thought of you because of the “results” your son got, how would you parent differently?

The question that’s been plaguing me lately is “Why don’t we answer ‘know and love God’ or ‘be a good man?’” I mean that in the Platonic way of ‘good.’

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

The more I think about it, the more I want my boys to be able to look back over their lives and know they’ve loved God, loved their neighbor as themselves, and led a meaningful life. Good grades on the upcoming test or how they do in the tryout or whether or not they go to a highly ranked college… those really don’t mean much on the road to the type of man they are going to become.

And that, I believe, is why we should start moving the goal posts.

*Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash

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