As I was growing up, I took every lesson possible – ballet, tap, jazz, gymnastics, drawing, piano, clarinet, swimming…the list goes on. Looking back, my growth was always stunted by my lack of confidence and constant comparison of myself to others. Sometime in my late 20s, I broke free of this trap and another round of lessons happened – dramatic and improvisational acting, pottery, classical Indian dance, Hindi language, French conversation, tabla (drums), fiction writing, journalism and the study of world religions…”Learning is wasted on the youth!” became my mantra. I had never known how to learn, and would sit stewing in my own insecurities, fumbling, peeking out from behind my shaggy bangs at the people who seemed to have things figured out. The revelation that came in my 20s – learning for the sake of learning and not having to be the best – was liberating. Like so many things, I only wished I had learned THIS lesson sooner.
As my own kids enter the “activities ’til you drop” years, I wonder how to break them into the world of lessons, hobbies, talent development, and discovering their passions. Half of my daughter’s classmates in daycare are already tiny ballerinas and my son’s friends are all soccer and t-ball stars. I want to stay off of this hamster wheel, and as a single mom, my schedule and my wallet cannot afford to push my kids into this world any sooner than I have to.
Callie has already determined she is a dancer and so we hold dance parties at home and groove in the car so she can practice her moves (she must be stealing them from those little ballerinas in her class). Caleb has a knack for music and artists. He is the only 5-year old I know who can discern between Nicki Minaj (aka Nicki Massage) and Iggy Azalea songs and asks questions like “Momma, how do pears kiss? They are just fruits,” when he hears Tech N9ne’s “Hood Go Crazy” on the radio. Before you judge, he is also a fan of classical Indian music, loves AWOL Nation, and can tell you that Kurt Cobain is a music great who committed suicide.
So no, this is not a blog post about how talented my kids are, the fact that I am a great YouTube kid’s dance party DJ or that maybe I need to pop in those Noah’s Ark music CDs more often on the way to daycare instead of listening to Caleb rap out “College girls go crazy” from his booster seat. It is more of a pondering for me. What is the best way to help my kids explore their talents and passions? Is there any way I can help them avoid the traps I fell into and what are the words or discussions to have so that they can enjoy these experiences early on? Without thinking they have to be “the best” or they might as well not pursue whatever it may be. Now I haven’t even touched on the inadequacy I feel for not darting from daycare to ballet or soccer every other afternoon like some parents. That topic is for another post. Insert big smiley face here because I don’t know how to. I am still learning how to use WordPress. And I don’t have to be the best.