“A lot of parents will do anything for their kids except let them be themselves.” – Banksy
I was the poster child of a tomboy growing up. I could care less about my hair and often rocked braids and beads for that reason. I spent most of my free time climbing trees and outrunning the boys and girls in my neighborhood. One day, my family thought it would be a good idea to enroll all of the girls in my family in ballet. For me it was an epic failure. I did not have the poise at the time, would race to the playground in my dance clothes immediately following class and my flat feet would ache every week as I tried to contort them into the different positions.
As a High School teacher, I come across so many students who already have their resumes written – future doctors, lawyers and accountants, not because they are particularly great at Math or Science, but because they have been told by their parents that is what they want them to do. It is incredibly difficult as parents to embrace our children for who they are because we are afraid. We fear them not being able to take care of themselves… we fear them developing self-destructive or risky behavior… we fear them being an embarrassment to the family. The thing that I am most afraid of is a generation of young people who are not happy. A generation of youth who have been guilt tripped into cubicles and chin checked into conformity. After all, how many of us were herded into dead-end jobs but secretly wanted (or still want) to do something closer to our passion?
I believe that it is a parent’s job to help a child explore their interests. If your toddler takes an interest in trains… Help him/her explore that by taking them on a train ride, watching movies about trains and maybe even speak to a train conductor. If your primary school aged child says they want to teach – play school with him or her. Purchase a chalkboard and other school or teaching related toys to help your child get to know that potential career. Parents invest millions of dollars into character-themed bedroom sets, action figures and birthday parties. Doc McStuffins is a wonderful start and was very popular for Christmas 2013. What would happen if we invested funds into helping our children explore themselves, free of our vicarious desires?
BMWK – what are you doing to help your children explore themselves? If you child’s passion involved something that was non-traditional, would you encourage it or influence them to pursue something less risky?