Think back to when you were a kid.
Were you an energetic, Tigger-like personality, eager to climb, jump, and play?
Or did you enjoy sitting with a pile of books and reading for hours on end?
Could you be counted on to gather up the neighborhood kids and direct a play?
Competitive sports? Drawing and painting? Playing cello or singing in the choir?
What were your interests?
Your curiosities and passions?
How did you dream of spending your free time?
Now consider this…
Were your curiosities and passions nurtured?
Did your parents encourage your specific interests and pursuits?
Or did loved ones shut you down?
Now, think about your own child’s interests.
What are their interests?
Their curiosities and passions?
What do they spend time dreaming about doing?
And how are YOU responding to them?
Are you nurturing their interests, curiosities, and passions?
Or are you unenthusiastic and unsupportive?
It’s often hard to confront our feelings about our child’s unique interests.
Because let’s face it, certain interests and activities are more easily accepted by society.
Our culture tends to celebrate the star quarterback over the national spelling bee champion.
For males, it’s usually more acceptable to be a hockey player, rather than a figure skater.
And females are generally still encouraged to pursue dance and gymnastics than say, rugby.
What if our children are desperately trying to show us what they love doing, but we’re missing it?
What if we’re too busy trying to fit them into our predetermined mold, that we completely miss the unique talents they already have?
I don’t know about you, but the thought of this breaks my heart.
Now, I certainly think it’s important to expose our children to a variety of activities and interests. And there are specific skills that I believe are necessary for their well-being.
But once they’ve been exposed to many different possibilities, I want to pay attention to what it is THEY are gravitating towards.
Are you with me?
Let’s brainstorm together and figure out how to start embracing your child’s interests.
Start by paying attention.
What lights your child up? What energizes them and fills them with joy and creativity?
This is your first clue.
Next, nurture these interests.
Sign them up for a related class or camp. Check out books and videos. Provide plenty of free time to explore these interests.
I promise you that denying your child’s interests will not make these interests go away. True curiosities and passions remain. And sadly, so many people spend their lives desperately chasing someone else’s idea of success, instead of pursuing their own.
What a tragedy.
Celebrate a variety of talents and curiosities.
The magician who has mastered her card tricks?
The spoken word poet who is highlighted at a poetry slam.
Completing a challenging puzzle. Mastering calligraphy. Directing a film…
Notice, acknowledge, and celebrate these all.
Your child is watching and listening. And when you model appreciation for a variety of talents and passions, your child learns that they too, are encouraged and supported to pursue their unique interests.
What a gift.
Make the decision to embrace the gifts and interests your child has, not the ones you want them to have.
Oh, this one can be so tough!
If you were a star soccer player and love the sport with every fiber of your being, it might be devastating when your child hates running and kicking a ball.
If you learned piano at an early age and continued on as an adult, cherishing the joy it has brought you, it could be a huge disappointment when your child decides they’d rather play softball.
But if you open yourself up to receiving what their interests are, new worlds await you. And this, if you ask me, is pretty exciting.
Let your child know you are proud of them and encourage them just the way they are.
At the end of the day, don’t we all just want to be accepted for who we are? And even better, celebrated for who we are?
Don’t let your child think that you are disappointed in their interests and pursuits.
Make sure they know that you love them exactly the way they are.
Champion what they choose to pursue.
Enjoy the ride.
We can spend so much time trying to raise our children in ways we deem acceptable and right. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, we’ve got to make sure we leave enough space for joy and celebration too.
Buckle up next to your awesome and unique child.
And enjoy the ride.
Has embracing your child’s interests come easily to you? Or has this been challenging?