I can’t say enough about the industry’s youth programs and the opportunities they provide for our youth to develop and learn. I’ve heard it said thousands of times that the only thing wrong with our youth programs is the parents. There is probably a lot of truth in that statement, but parents are also the reason these programs survive and thrive.
Everyone who’s been involved in a county fair can probably relate an embarrassing story; one where parents almost came to blows or lost perspective about what the programs are really intended to do. I’m a parent and, like any other parent, I love my kids and want the best for them. It’s stressful to sit and watch your kids perform and compete. While I root for all kids to do well, I’ll admit that I’m far more interested in my own kids.
It isn’t about winning; after all, we knew before we ever walked into a show ring that even your best might not win you a ribbon. The idea is to maximize your performance and personal growth. Since becoming a parent, I’ve learned my new role is a lot harder than being the kid in the arena, show ring, playing field or on the stage. It’s difficult – knowing how hard your kids have worked and how much they want to succeed – to watch it play out from the stands.
Most of the time those show moms and dads are providing love, support and coaching. They’re often up early and sacrificing lots of mornings, evenings and weekends helping and hoping their children achieve their goals and aspirations. These parents are good people, who want their children to enjoy the thrills of victory and helping them through the stings of defeat.
Show parents sometimes get a bad rap. After all, we don’t get angy about the new mama cow that chases the dog that came too close to her calf; we understand it is maternal instinct. Similarly, I think it’s wise to steer clear of parents for at least 10 minutes after a heifer class; and maybe 30 minutes if it’s a national show. If their heifer was a close second to the eventual champion, I’d give it seven days.
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I was told this week about an incident at our local county fair, where two dads almost came to blows. Both are great guys, and pillars of the community. I don’t condone such behavior, but I also certainly understand how it happens.
I’ve had to make a couple of rules for myself as a horse show dad. I’ll never complain about a judge in public or in front of the kids; however, I do allow myself to make a couple snide comments to my wife. When a child falls short and doesn’t have the success he/she has worked so hard for, I’ll let them know I’m not disappointed in them but rather for them. I know it is not about the victory or defeat, but what they’ve become and learned in pursuing that goal.
Never condone the inappropriate actions and words of a show parent right after their precious child is handed a defeat. But never forget that there’s nothing harder or better than watching your kids chase their dreams.
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