Can Andre help me raise my kids?

27 Dec


I have always been a tennis fan. My dad and I used to sit down at the weekend and watch matches together. I loved Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg, Steffi Graf and Ivan Lendl. John Mcenroe scared me. I missed much of Andre Agassi’s rise to fame during my difficult teenage years but later became a huge fan when I watched him struggle to win just one more Grand Slam before he retired.

I was initially excited by the impending release of his autobiography Open and planned to buy it the moment it came out in 2009. Then I read a review that turned me off it completely. His famous hair was a wig and he hated tennis.

I was devastated. I always admired him and his achievements but I felt betrayed. He wasn’t who I thought he was. He seemed like a happy, talented, secure sportsman. Instead he was living the life of a fraud and making himself miserable. It seemed false and unappreciative. I was so disappointed.

I bought the book yesterday and it is the best autobiography I have read this year. I have thawed since my initial shock at his revelations. Who am I to judge him? I wanted to understand what goes on behind the celebrity we are led to believe. How could his real life be so different? I haven’t put his book down. I will read it again once I am done. It is such an amazing story and one I hope will help me to figure something out, something that has been bothering me since I read that 2009 review.

As parents, should we force our children to develop their natural gifts or should we let them be?

Andre Agassi never liked tennis. In fact he hated and loathed it, but it was all he knew. His father forced him to follow his natural talent and Andre didn’t appreciate any of it. His relationship with tennis seemed to be about ego and money and he didn’t seem to enjoy it. Now that I am reading his book I understand how he ended up on this path and I admire him for his achievements even more.

My eldest son is a talent artist. It’s in his genes. His older half-brother and his uncle have the same gift but they never developed it. They didn’t enjoy it so they didn’t pursue it. I often wonder why they didn’t pursue a career in art seeing as they were so naturally gifted. It seems like such a waste. So when my son started drawing life-like pictures Spiderman from the age of four I paid attention. I bought him endless supplies and let him go through as much of it as he wanted. He has drawn every day of his life since his first pictures of Spiderman. He draws ten to twenty pictures a day. He seems to love it. But he hates art class.

I spoke to Philip about art class before I booked him in. I didn’t want to force him to do anything but he was really keen. For the first few weeks he did really well, his work was amazing and there were no complaints. Then he started saying he was too tired to go, that he was sick of it, that he just wanted to draw whatever he wanted and not be told what to draw. So here’s my dilemma. Do I force him to go to class to develop his natural talent so he can get a great job as an artist, designer, architect or any of the many and varied careers an artist can get or do I let him quit and hope for the best?  I really don’t know what to do. I was going to give him the end of the year off but his teacher convinced me to continue him, saying he was so naturally gifted that she would be sad to lose him. She has sent some of his work to Germany and next year he can enter a competition at the Easter Show. He still draws every day and his work in class is amazing. He asked Santa for a proper art easel and has been painting non-stop. His enjoyment is still there but what if I force him to go to class next year and he ends up hating it?

I’ll never forget when I signed my little brother up for soccer. He loved playing soccer with his friends and was always kicking the ball around. So I signed him up on a proper team and he hated it. He enjoyed the training and hanging out with his friends but he told me on the way home one night that he was started to hate it because of the pressure. He said soccer used to be his way of relaxing and now that’s been taken away. I let him quit immediately. I felt terrible that I had ruined soccer for him. He ended up recovering. He just isn’t naturally competitive. He’s more creative and has ended up in web-related advertising and design.

My brother never trained on computers until university. We just let him play around with them as much as he wanted, which was every night. I let him pull my old computers apart to see how they worked. He did it because he loved it and it was his decision to study computing at university himself.

I found my career-path, with some nudging from my mum. I signed up to debating but ended up loving public speaking more. A stranger suggested I look into radio and after floundering for weeks my mum made a call to the local radio station and I joined up and ended up working in radio and still am in some capacity.

So with my son do I do the Andre Agassi push, my little brother’s free approach or the gentle nudging of my mother? I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out. There’s a balance there somewhere but it also depends on my son’s personality. He’s a sensitive and moody little artist. Until I figure it out I will rely on bribery, and just a little pushing. Fingers crossed.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi




La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

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