Monday, October 5, 2015

Parenthood – Week 121: Follow Your Child's Passion Or Why My Dad Listens To Broadway Music

For the past week, I’ve learned a lot about the moon. This satellite takes 27 days to orbit the earth. Because the way the earth rotates and orbits the sun, from the same point on earth, you can’t see the moon every night. I’ve downloaded an app on my iPhone that keeps track of the moon’s cycles and helps locate it at night.

I’ve never really had an interest in the moon or other celestial bodies. This is why I’ve only recently discovered these basic facts about the moon. So why the sudden interest in this subject? Ollie.

Last week I wrote about Ollie’s new fascination with the moon and after a couple days where we couldn’t find it in the night sky, I did some investigating. While Ollie doesn’t fully understand my explanation of why we can’t see the moon, he seems receptive to my efforts to explain the rotation and orbits involved in our moon’s visibility.  Ollie concludes "moon hiding."

I was talking to someone recently about having kids. Her husband was looking forward to have a kid to share his interests in sports. She had no idea what they would do if they had a kid who was into books or music instead of sports.

I told her, “Don’t have a kid to have someone to share your interests, that’s what friends are for, kids are something different entirely.”

I understand the desire to have a kid that shares your interests. We sentimentalize the idea of a father taking a son with to a baseball game and passing on a generational interest in sports. I would enjoy if Ollie shared my interests and some of them, he already does. But I would hate for Ollie to pretend he likes music more than he does to gain my approval when in reality he would rather be doing something different.

I got really into Broadway music when I was fourth grade. After hearing part of The Phantom Of the Opera CD at a friend’s house, my mom got me my own copy. My uncle got wind of this and got me a half dozen other Broadway CDs. I got really into Broadway music and started watching as many film musical as I could get my hands on and asking to go see Broadway musicals.

My dad has always been into music but mostly 1960s rock music (I wrote about his significant musical influence on me in this post). This fascination was a little strange for him. He wasn’t as into classical music but he understood its value but show tunes was something different altogether. So my dad made a choice. He listened to Broadway music with me and along with my mom made the effort to take me to see The Phantom Of the Opera. I don’t know how much my dad understood what he was watching, but he got that it was something that I was interested in and that was enough for him to make the effort. Now if you ride with him in his car you are as likely to hear songs from musicals coming out of his car’s sound systems as you are to hear some oldies.

Given the choice, would your rather have a kid whose interest mirrors your own or have a child that introduces you to things that you never imagined as being part of your life? Personally, I would prefer the latter.

Parenthood about creating an environment where a child’s interests is nurtured.  An atmosphere where a kid likes things not to please their parents but because they find inspiration in a subject is critical in child development. This is about providing your children the freedom to be themselves.

As parents we need to let go of this idea of “the baseball game.”  Passing along our passions and our interests is helpful in helping your kid know you, but more importantly following your child's passion is essential in helping them get to know and love themselves.

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