Noah’s going to the 2012 London Olympics. Not as a spectator. Oh, no. He tells us that he’s going as a competitor in swimming. Which should be interesting, considering he’s only recently mastered swimming in the deep end of the pool. And why shouldn’t he be competing? We’ve told him that there’s nothing he can’t achieve if he sets his mind to it. But setting his mind and simultaneously applying his body does not seem to be a concept he’s mastered. Noah is extremely perseverant. But this dedication manifests only when Noah is already into something – when he’s so far invested that to turn back would invite ridicule, or equate to failure.
Trying to ply my children with engaging activities while buying myself a few hours of solace, I’ve laid out careful camp plans this summer. This week was art camp. Run by a talented local artist with a lovely studio, there were children ages 5 to 8 in the class. He got to go with his sister. It was only a few hours, and the class was small. It seemed perfect. Seemed.
After the first day, Noah announced that he hated art camp because it was too difficult, and it required work. It was something he hadn’t mastered, and couldn’t pretend that he had. He didn’t want to go back and try again when the shading or shape wasn’t quite right. He was ready to quit after one day. Well, we’re not quitters.
Plus, I’ve already paid for the whole week.
What Noah does is jump to the most extreme conclusion, the highest pinnacle of achievement related to the belief that he can – as we’ve told him – achieve anything he sets his mind to. This means winning Olympic gold, writing a New York Times bestseller, or painting the next “Starry Night.” Instantly. He will tell you he can do it all. And if he tries it without instant success, he automatically “hates it.” Noah expects to be prodigious at everything he attempts, not understanding that even Mozart spent a few hours in practice on the harpsichord.
He hasn’t figured out that setting your mind to something also means setting your body in motion to achieve it.
I think Noah has the hard part down. I’m excellent at brute achievement , the doing of things, the slaving away. But the belief that I might be able to achieve something? I’m often surprised when I meet a goal. For me, the mental part is the biggest challenge. I am sometimes hindered from achieving what I want because I get hung up in the “am I good enough?” minutiae and it frequently slows my stride.
We told Noah that art was a challenge, but a beautiful exercise in dedication. We told him it would take practice, and that it would get better with every minute spent in his sketchbook. We were right. Not prone to emotions of extremes or anything (ahem), he told me today he LOVED art camp. Why? Because the drawing of an egg that he’d been working to shade for 3 days finally, with hard work, came out just the way he’d already planned.