Throwback Thursday: The Value of Mean Parents


Going through our archives, we came across this great post by Dr. AnnMaria De Mars from April 7, 2015 “The Value of Mean Parents” that we wanted to share in case you missed it the first time around.

This morning, my sister and her lovely daughter took Julia to the gym to run three miles while I was still asleep. I did what I do every day, worked most of the day, including fixing a few bugs and recording an interview for the Red Man Laughing podcast.

While Julia was back, working on her pre-calculus homework, I got to thinking about how different this is from when Ronda was younger. When she was 11, 12 or 13 years old, I was getting her up every morning and making her run, driving her to judo every night. Part of the difference is age. When Ronda was 11 years old, I was 39. When Julia was 11 years old, I was 50.

Because I’m older, Julia has had to do more things on her own. Plus, she chose to play soccer about which I know only what I learned from watching the movie, Bend It Like Beckham.

Unfortunately, it is a disadvantage to not have a mean parent chasing you in sprints uphill.

Three reasons “mean parents” are an advantage:

1. If you have a mean parent who makes you get up and run even when you don’t want to do it, makes you practice drills when you want to watch TV, you get better at your sport.

2. You get used to training hard and pushing past your comfort zone, so even when there is no one around to make you, it is still a habit.

3. As you grow up, you realize that person who was pushing you who you thought was really awful at the time was really someone who really loved you and had your best interests at heart, when the people blowing smoke up your ass about your great talent did not. This is a huge benefit because, as an adult, you will need people around you who push you to improve and stay ahead of the competition. If you’ve been pushed by someone who loved you as a child when you are an adult, you are going to be able to have a better relationship with coaches, managers, agents and others who want you to do more than you feel like doing at the moment.

Notice I said “mean” not “crazy”.

I put this in the same post because I did not want people to misconstrue it. Here are some ways to know if you are crazy.

1. If you have a child under 8 years old training every day of the year. They’re A KID. You may end up with the toughest eight-year-old in the world. So fucking what? I won the world championships. Do you know who the toughest eight-year-old judo player in the world was when I was a kid? Yeah, me, neither.

2. If you have taken a second mortgage on your home, quit your job, moved across country so your child can have a better opportunity training. Don’t make grown-up life decisions based on your child’s sport because what if they break a leg or decide to join band instead?

3. If you cannot truly answer the question, “Are you doing this for yourself or your child?”, unequivocally with, “For my child”, well, I don’t know whether or not you are a crazy parent but you are certainly a bad one.

What if you aren’t in a position to be the “mean parent”?

I am older now and I’m not so dishonest or stupid as to pretend that I’m in the same shape in my fifties as I was in my thirties. Plus, I have a company to run.

I think there are still some things I can offer.  I still know what it takes to be a successful athlete and can let Julia know when I don’t think she is doing it.

Although I can’t get out and run up and down the fields with her or teach her ball handling skills, I can make arrangements for her to get those opportunities – I see a lot of summer camps in her future. Being very cognizant of the unhealthy atmosphere and the potential for abuse at camps, she’ll be going as a day camper or we will be staying in the area while she’s at camp – but that’s a post for another day.


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