As of three days ago, I have a teenager. He’s thrilled; I’m nervous. He’s not full-blown into the apathetic attitude and “Mom, you’re embarrassing me,” but I’m preparing for that rite of passage. Even though the road ahead may be filled with disconnection from my currently sweet kid, I know how I’ll be able to connect with him. He’s a football fanatic, and I couldn’t be more thankful that his idol is the GOAT: Tom Brady. If I’m being honest, I look up to him, too, because my son has schooled me on all things TB, and his story is truly exceptional. Whether you love him or hate him, his rise from the most underrated quarterback to the Greatest Of All Time quarterback is my favorite underdog story, and we happily rely on TB to help us teach life lessons. Here are two that currently dominate our household.
Put in the work. Don’t take shortcuts.
Like most teens, laziness takes hold of them like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I guess it complements the indifferent attitude. He’s experienced consequences of his shortcuts recently, receiving less-than-stellar grades on assignments. Like his mom at that age, he’s tried to answer the questions from the article without reading the article and received the same crap grade for it, too. And how many times have I said, “THERE IS NO MENTAL MATH IN ALGEBRA — WRITE DOWN EVERY STEP?” My voice is now white noise. Or when he is trying to perfect a new drum beat and struggles, I remind him to go slow until he masters it, which is usually followed by his grunts that I translate into, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” However, when I bring Tom Brady into the conversation, he becomes riveted by my voice. We talk about TB never taking shortcuts and most often end up talking about him starting as the backup quarterback for the Patriots, but he still practiced like he was the starter. He arrived early, stayed late, worked out with the Defensive Team in addition to his Offensive Team. He worked hard ALL THE TIME so when his time came, he was more than ready. And when then-starting QB, Drew Bledsoe, got injured and Tom went in as the backup quarterback, he continued as the permanent quarterback even after Bledsoe recovered. TB always understood the assignment, he put in the work, and when opportunity knocked, he met it with preparation and confidence.
You may not be the most gifted, but you can still be the GOAT.
Kiddo is smart, he’s a good drummer, and athletic. He is good at these things because he works at them. He reviews for his tests to get good grades. He practices his drums often and handles a ball of some sort EVERY DAY. He’s not a superstar athlete people are already hyping up, but it doesn’t mean he won’t be someday. He sees others who are naturally gifted in these areas and don’t seem to have to work as hard, and he gets frustrated sometimes. Frustration when things are hard isn’t a new challenge, and over the years I’ve struggled with how to encourage perseverance and grit. Teenage years are the formidable ones where these characteristics can become part of their identity, and he doesn’t want to hear it from me. I get it. In his 13 years, there are only two people who have been successful in teaching him about grit and grind: his karate teacher and Tom Brady.
TB is a self-described slow scrambler and didn’t begin as a gifted football player, but his love of the game motivated him to never stop trying to get better, even at the end of his career. We started watching Man in the Arena: Tom Brady recently and at the end of episode one, Tom described how he worked himself to the top: “It’s like anything. It’s progress, and it’s evolution. It’s a series of small steps that seem so insignificant at the time that you’re making them, and then you look back and you realize the distance traveled.”
When I bring Tom Brady into the conversation during a teachable moment, kiddo almost always takes over. If I can lead into the part of his career that is applicable to the moment we’re in, sometimes he will finish the conversation verbalizing the exact lesson I am trying to ingrain. Honestly, these discussions about TB’s career give me just as many lessons about my parenting as they do him.
Tom Brady’s retirement announcement last week was a tough time in our house, but therein laid a valuable lesson, too: how to retire gracefully with gratitude. Uncertain times are ahead for our new teenager, but I feel better knowing I have a GOAT to help me through life lessons with him and hopefully stay connected.
Do you have a teenager? I’d love to hear how you have navigated the teenage years. “LET’S GO!”