Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recalled in her memoir, “Extraordinary, Ordinary People,” the time when she told her mother she wanted to quit the piano, which she had been playing since she was 3.
“You’re not old enough or good enough to make that decision,” Angelena Rice replied. “When you are, you can quit.” Years later, as a junior in college, it became clear that the future diplomat was not destined for the concert stage. “Now you are old enough and good enough,” Angelena Rice said, agreeing with her daughter’s decision. “For the rest of your life, the piano will always be there for you.”
Donna Barrett, 56, of Cheltenham, recalls how she had to dish out some tough love several years ago when her kids’ activities left her careening around town in a minivan low on gas and piled high with soccer, swimming and track gear.
At the time, Barrett’s 10-year-old twin boys were playing soccer and swimming. Her daughters, 8 and 6 years old, were in track. And her 3-year-old son did whatever the big kids were doing.
“I wanted to keep them active during the summer, but I wasn’t willing to play chauffeur to five kids under 11 years old,” Barrett said. “My husband and I made the decision that they would all do the same thing or do nothing.”
Track and field became the family sport, and now Barrett coaches her grandchildren on a local track team.
Barrett advises parents to take their child’s well-being into consideration when solving the quitting-time dilemma. “It doesn’t hurt to allow them to take a break,” she said. “When they want to take a break, they are trying to tell you something.”
But Thomen says why slow down when there’s the summer swim team, 4-H camp counselor-in-training job, Miss Maryland pageant and the cages that need to be cleaned at the nearby pet superstore?
The 10th-grader only took time off when she tore a thigh muscle while swimming year-round with Central Chesapeake Swimming.
“There has never been a time when she said she felt overwhelmed, but her body started shutting down,” recalled Kristen’s mother, Leniece Thomen, 53. “She was getting headaches. We had to stop something. She said, ‘Mom, I’m tired.’ I said, ‘Which one do you want to X out?”
Even after dropping year-round swimming, Kristen still keeps a busy schedule. Her mother said that Kristen’s myriad activities are an expression of her desire to help others. “Kristen has a compassion for humanity,” Leniece Thomen said, “and she wants to do her part.”
Haynes is a freelance writer.