Triumphs and Fails: Parenting triumphs on helping your children try new things and getting excited about reading.

Triumph! Laughing at Ron Weasley’s Misfortunes.

Triumph! Laughing at Ron Weasley’s Misfortunes.

The parenting grade.
April 23 2015 4:53 PM

But I Don’t Like Basketball!

Parenting triumphs on helping your children try new things and getting excited about reading.

Boy in basketball uniform holding basketball.
A reluctant baller.

Photo by Thinkstock

Remember the time you overcame your hatred of crafts to make the perfect costume for your kindergartner’s school event? Remember the time the Tooth Fairy fell asleep and forgot to visit? What about the day when your kids agitated for a social cause they strongly believed in? What about the first time your 7-year-old dropped an F-bomb?

These little triumphs and fails happen to all parents, and they’re all worth celebrating (or ruing). At the beginning of each episode of Mom and Dad Are Fighting, Slate’s parenting podcast, we reveal parenting triumphs and fails from our own lives. We’ll share them here every other Thursday, the day the episodes go live.

Dan Kois: I have a triumph this week. We have been reading Harry Potter before H’s bedtime. We read her a couple of pages each night. Sometimes, we’ll get really ambitious and read a whole chapter. Although we’re usually so tired we never really make it into a whole chapter. She has been interested in the stories, but she hasn’t been passionately excited about them yet. Mostly, she’ll ask a lot of clarifying questions. Like sometimes she’ll interrupt  the middle of a chapter that has nothing to do with the Weasleys at all and just ask, “What grade is Percy in?” And I feel sort of bad for H sometimes on the reading tip—well, she’s actually a really good reader. I just think she discounts reading in her life because she kind of feels like she has to fill the role as the reader of the family, as we’re occupied by L who’s been praised for it for as long as H can remember. Anyways, we’re on the Chamber of Secrets right now and last night was the first time where H got really, really, really, really excited about the story. She was laughing and screaming and hiding under the covers. And I’m counting it as a triumph for me because I feel like I gave it all to my performance last night. We are at the part where Ron tries to curse Malfoy with his broken wand, but the curse backfires and Ron ends up barfing slugs all over the place. I really sold it. I did a lot of disgusting slug sound effects and everything. She was so grossed out and was very upset at Ron’s behalf. So, I’m going to take J.K. Rowling’s triumph for my own triumph.


Allison Benedikt: Excellent performance, Dan! Do you read to them separately? Or does L just reads to herself now?

Dan: L reads to herself now and would just rather die instead of let someone read to her.

Allison: (Laughs) I look forward to that phase. OK, I also have a triumph! As typical, the triumph starts with a fail.

 So, a few weeks ago, it was time to sign H up for the spring session of his school’s after-school clubs. Normally I am super on the ball about this. I don’t know how it works for you guys, but registration for a new session of clubs always starts at 9 a.m. So, I go over the club options the night before with H, and I usually just stay home that morning instead of going into the office so that there’s no chance I’ll be stuck underground on a slow-moving subway when the mad rush to sign up begins. However, this time, I totally forgot. Completely forgot. Did not talk about it with H. Did not remember to log on to the sign-up page until I got an email from my friend at around 10 a.m. saying, “What did you sign H up for?” And of course my stomach dropped and I let out a wail at Slate HQ, and everyone probably thought something actually terrible had happened. So, at that point, I had two options: I could wait for H to get home from school that day and then talk to him on the phone about what clubs he wanted, but at that point there would probably only be a few with slots still open. The lame ones. Piano. Or I could just make the decision without him, making informed choices based on what I know he’s interested in and likes to do.


Dan: I would’ve definitely signed him up for the ones I thought he’d be interested in.

Allison: OK! That’s what I did. I decided to do the latter, only when I got to the registration page, I found myself hovering over the words “Friday” and “basketball”—which H has absolutely no interested in. Then I clicked and I paid. H, as I’ve mentioned on this show before, is actually kind of scared of sports. He never wants to participate in family soccer games and whenever I ask him if he wants to sign up for a soccer or basketball or baseball thing, he always says no.

 But I just went ahead and signed him up for basketball because I honestly think he should try new things, and if he hates it, then he’ll never have to do it again, but we will never really know if he hates it if he doesn’t try it. Plus, I think it’s important for him to at least be comfortable around group sports, even if he doesn’t ever end up loving them or is good at them. I mean, a little bit of me wants him to love them and be good at them–I’ll admit. Generally, I don’t care. That’s my pose.

Anyway, I didn’t tell him for days because I was scared. When I finally told him, he objected and was pretty upset. But the next few days, we began working on it. John took him out back to throw around a ball—and a baseball which he likes to do with John—with a basketball dribbling a few warm nights in a row, and he got excited. And I showed him videos of dunking contests on YouTube. Well maybe it isn’t a great thing to do.


Dan: No, no. He’ll definitely be doing that for his school class. You should prepare him.

Allison: Then he finally had his first class last week, and he loved it. He’s super into basketball now. He keeps asking us for jerseys. I think he’s more interested in the actual stuff than the sport I think. So I’m going to call this one a triumph. Some might call it pushy parenting. I forced my child to do something he didn’t want to do but that I thought was important for him to at least try. And it worked out!

Dan: No, that’s just called actual parenting. Good job!

This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Listen to the rest of the episode here:

Allison Benedikt is Slate’s executive editor. Follow her on Twitter.

Dan Kois edits and writes for Slate’s human interest and culture departments. He’s the co-author, with Isaac Butler, of The World Only Spins Forward, a history of Angels in America, and is writing a book called How to Be a Family.