Saturday, February 27, 2016

Parenting Passion

My husband tells me sometimes he is jealous because I knew what I wanted to do at an early age and he is still trying to figure it out. I tell him that’s not true, he did figure it out, but hasn’t yet been able to make it happen.

He grew up loving airplanes and wanted to fly. I saw how much he loved planes on a recent tri to an air museum. While I thought the World War I and II planes were really cool, he stopped lovingly in front of each one and read its history. He told me I’d always be his wife, but these guys were his mistress.

I get it.

I feel that way about certain plays, shows, songs, films and even phrases. I can spend the whole day thinking up the perfect word, delete it, and start over again at three a.m. And once a song gets stuck in my head, God help me for trying to get it out again.

My husband went to flight school but finances and circumstances prevented him from finishing. Dream 2 of being a film editor also hasn’t happened yet, but I am hopefull he will find a way at some point to make his dreams come true.

As a parent, of course, your first dream for your kids is to help them find their dreams—even though you know it won’t be easy. My son showed us early on how much he loved acting and performing; though I knew I could tell him until I was blue in the face what a hard road that could be, I also knew that would make no difference.

When I was 11 or so I told my mother I wanted to be an actress. She kept telling me how hard a life it was, and I was having none of it. Finally she gave up and started coming to see me in plays when I was in college.

Looking back on it now, I sometimes think maybe every parent should say no to their kid’s first dream. Does it make you more stubborn about achieving it, somehow, when there’s something to rebel against?

My son wanted to learn how to play saxophone and talked me into buying him the instruments; argued me into letting him learn boxing and (against all odds) turned me into a fan; and then found his way to vocal performance and opera. Watching him grow up taught me we don’t find our passions so much as unearth them, like archaeologists excavating under mounds of rock and soil.

The fun part is not just figuring it out, but figuring out where those passions are most likely to rise and then being there to catch them. The playwright Marsha Norman once said that when she has an idea for a play, she tries to forget about it. The ideas that refuse to go away are the ones she ends up writing about.

So maybe you don’t really need to do much of anything to help our kids find their passions. Maybe the best idea is just to let them explore and excavate. Sooner or later, I think they’ll find what they’re looking for and start to fly. All we really have to do is get out of the way.

For more on kids, ambition and passion, take a look at these articles:

How Feeding Children’s Ambition Only Sets Them Up to Fail