- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady opened up in an interview about struggling to relate to his young son who doesn’t like sports.
- Experts say that while it’s normal for parents to feel disappointed if their kids don’t share their passions, they should avoid pushing their likes onto them.
- The writer Randi Mazzella shared how she experienced the opposite phenomenon and learned to embrace sports to bond with her athletics-obsessed son.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In Men’s Health’s September cover story, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady opened up about one of the biggest parenting struggles he has faced: trying to relate to his young son who doesn’t like sports.
Brady said he and his oldest son, Jack, 12, had a lot in common and were able to bond over athletics.
“Jack loves sports. He wants to try hard, and he never wants to disappoint his dad,” Brady said. “That was me.”
But unlike his dad and big brother, Benjamin, 9, has no interest in sports, which caught the six-time Super Bowl winner by surprise.
Brady said it was hard to accept that his younger son doesn’t like sports
“It was hard for me,” Brady said. “I was like, ‘What do you mean? He’s a boy; he should just do all these things that I do.'”
Like Brady, many parents are caught off guard – and may even feel disappointed – when they discover that their child isn’t interested in their passions or hobbies. It’s normal for parents to dream about painting with their little ones, if they enjoy art, or hitting baseballs in the park until it gets dark, if athletics are their thing. But experts caution parents against pushing their pastimes onto their children.
“When children are born, all parents have fantasies about what they’ll be like” Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a psychologist and author of “Kid Confidence,” told Insider. “Usually, we imagine that they’ll be similar to us, because that’s what we know. We picture them sharing our strengths and interests.”
But as Brady learned, just because a parent is a force in a particular area doesn’t mean they will share that passion with their offspring.
It may make it difficult to connect with or understand a child. But it’s important for parents to make sure they don’t make a child feel insecure about their differences.
Parents need to let go of the vision of who they thought their child would be
“Every child is their own little entity,” said Michele Borba, an educator and author of several books, including “UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World,” a book about fostering empathy in children.
“You never want your kid to think ‘I am a disappointment to my parents because of who I am’ or ‘because I am not like them,'” Borba said.
Once parents let go of who they thought their child would be, they can figure out who their child actually is – and start to better relate to them.
“Parents may feel a twinge of sadness at having to give up their fantasy vision of what their child would be like,” Kennedy-Moore said. “But that’s more than made up for by the wonder of loving their real child.”
Brady said he now has the ‘best time’ doing the things Benjamin loves to do
That’s what happened to Brady as he embraced his son’s unique qualities.
“The reality is that Benny just likes different things,” Brady said. “And it’s great because now I just have to go do what he wants to do. When we do that, we have the best time.”
I had a similar experience with my son, who is now 16.
I never liked sports. I grew up surrounded by a father and two brothers who were always discussing batting averages and point spreads. My brothers played baseball, and my dad coached them. It made me feel disconnected: They all shared something that I did not. And while sometimes they tried to include me, admittedly I did not make much of an effort to understand.
When my son showed an interest in athletics at an early age, I was not surprised. By the time he was 4, ESPN surpassed Nickelodeon as his favorite TV channel. By 7, he and my husband were spending every Sunday watching football together. I began to feel left out again, just as I did when I was a kid. In some ways, this felt worse.
Doing the things your children enjoy brings you closer to them
But now I was the parent, and I realized I needed to make more of an effort. If I wanted to connect with him in a meaningful way, I needed to understand and appreciate the things that he enjoyed.
One morning when my son was about 9, I decided to watch a sports-highlights show with him. He was a little surprised, but he was more than happy to explain what was going on. After decades of avoiding sports, I found some of what he said to be confusing, especially all the rules of football. But his enthusiasm was contagious. He was thrilled to answer any question I asked.
Within a few weeks, I was checking the football scores on my own in the morning. It gave me something to discuss with him at breakfast and also clued me in to the type of mood he would be in when he woke up.
My son introduced me to a show called “30 on 30” on ESPN that profiles athletes and their life stories. While I might get bored watching a sporting event, these shows intrigued me.
As a writer, I love hearing about people’s journeys, motivations, and struggles to achieve their goals. It gave me a new perspective on sports and helped me to understand why people, especially my son, have such a profound connection to them. Watching these episodes together allowed us to talk about hard work, determination, and not giving up.
If I hadn’t made the effort to learn about my son’s passion, I think I would have felt disconnected from him as he got older.
Like many teens his age, he can be sullen and uncommunicative. But even on days when he gives one-word responses to my questions, he is always up for a discussion about last night’s basketball game or which team has the best shot of going to the Super Bowl. He loves that he is “smarter than mom” in this subject and is more than happy to share his vast knowledge with me.
As Borba said: “It’s great when parents reverse roles and let our kids teach us. It allows us to step out of our comfort zone.”
This past summer, I persuaded my son to take a weekend road trip with me to Boston. At first, he wasn’t that excited about traveling with “just mom.” But he felt otherwise once I said I’d treat him to the Yankees-Red Sox game. My son is a lifelong Yankees fan, and even I knew that this was one of the biggest rivalries in baseball.
The first few innings, he was all smiles. But around the fifth, the Yankees started losing – big time. My son was bummed, and we actually left before the game ended. Still, I hope that when my son looks back, instead of thinking of the score, he’ll remember cheering alongside his mom and sharing an ice-cream sundae in a plastic baseball helmet.