It is a tough thing being a parent. Those of us who take our responsibility seriously are ever alert, always researching, constantly thinking about the future to figure out what we need to do today. We can unwittingly use our own experiences in extracurricular activities as a model of what would be best for our kids. While there is much value in leaning on familiar things and in passing on our wisdom, it is something that requires very careful handling.
Here are some questions for parents to ponder:
- Do we plan for our kids to become whatever we want them to be?
- Do we assume their growing up years will resemble our own lives when we were children?
- Do we expect they will find happiness via the same activities that we do?
There are certainly examples of children who have the same passions in their hobbies or extracurriculars as one of their parents, but I have found it to be a rather rare phenomenon. Each of our children is totally unique, different from their siblings and different from their parents. I’ll be honest in that I halfway expected my children to share my love of athletics and dreamed of ball games and track meets in their future. At first it was a little daunting to realize they were intrigued with areas that I understood little about. In fact, I knew nothing about the main activity that each of my children chose. Rather than being a comfortable expert, I was required to ramp up once again and learn the language of their hearts and how to help them succeed in extraordinary new endeavors. In each case, that primary activity defined their lives and rearranged our schedules.
I realize now that the years I invested in my children’s distinctive interests changed me in a dramatic way. To the richness of my own growing up years, my daughter’s musical pursuits added a new love and appreciation of classical music and the incredible discipline of musicians. My son’s fascination with science introduced new worlds and many layers of complexity to our family dynamic.
Looking back, I am reminded again that God has a marvelous sense of humor! By requiring parents to start at the beginning with the things that spark their child’s imagination, they can grow together in this new adventure. I was not allowed to be the all-knowing expert who could have become unbearable and demanding. I was too busy getting this new thing figured out and was forced to develop in novel directions.
Here is my basic advice for parents: set aside your assumptions, watch carefully for the spark that lights your child’s eyes, then hang on tight for the ride of your life!
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