I keep trying to make my kids into people they’re not.
“How ’bout taking music again, you’re really good at music…” I’ll say to Eli, the older one.
He’ll say some inappropriate thing then, the common-phrase-of-the-moment he utters horribly out of context to change the subject. It is his way of not addressing my constant badgering about “Who He Is” or “Who He Will Be.”
Is he a musician? His percussive abilities were great in that one assembly. I’d never quite understood before the pace-setting importance of the triangle.
He took music for years with a good fun teacher, learned some piano and guitar. He loves writing incredibly funny rude raps, and he can certainly set a mean rhythm with cutlery at the table. Why shouldn’t music be his thing?
But then again, why should it?
He’s on the baseball team, and loves watching and talking all kinds of sports. He likes filmmaking and photography.
The little one, Oscar, is an incredibly lithe dancer. He moves so effortlessly. I ask him often if he wants to audition for the school musical, or supplement dance classes at school with something after school or on the weekends. The answer is always “No.”
He goes to Game Lab and loves it. He takes drama and has started guitar lessons. Is that enough? Will one of these things become his passion?
Every time another kid goes to basketball tryouts, I wonder why my kids aren’t in basketball. Why do I now wonder why I never started them in soccer or swimming or football?
I could come up with the reasons — missed sign-up deadlines or the active decision not to sign up because it meant too many weekends given up to racing around, or, of course, the kids’ own lack of interest. Baseball season was challenging enough.
We are who we are. I think that all the time. We are dabblers in my family, doing things we like, trying to do them well, but not necessarily obsessed with doing them all the time, or acquiring medals and trophies. If truth be told, I like to keep weekends pretty free so we can get out of town if we want to, or visit museums or just stay home and relax.
My friend said recently that I am a great mom because I brought my kids to the Picasso exhibit at MOMA. But then, I thought, maybe she is the great mom because her son has become totally enamored with basketball, practicing almost every day, with games on weekends.
And then I hit myself upside the head: neither of us is better. It isn’t a competition. We are who we are, our kids are who they are, and none of us can be anything different than that, even if we try.
I think there are so many fascinating things my kids could do or be, and I am trying to help steer them toward the things that will really keep them jazzed in life. But, in the end, the decision is definitely not up to me. In fact, it’s not even entirely up to them. There is that little thing called “nature” that takes a role in our proclivities. I mean, there were no sports being watched or talked about in my home and Eli had had limited time with my sports-obsessed father when he got crazy watching “Friday Night Lights” on an airplane when he was 6. Passengers were straining to see where the yelling was coming from during the final scenes of the movie. I think he shoved a surprised flight attendant who obstructed his vision out of the way.
“Maybe you want to be a sports writer for the school paper?” I suggested after I’d overheard a kid talking about doing that at a Stuyvesant orientation.
Maybe. I think he liked that idea. It stemmed from my true understanding of his interests and where his passions lie, even though that passion might not be one of my choosing. I’m trying to hold my tongue or, better yet, not even let the thoughts break in about what a particular action or statement out of their mouths means about their future choice of career or pleasure-giving hobby.
When Eli was doing a good job on a Lego structure at a young age, making sure there was perfect symmetry, I whispered to my husband, “Maybe he’ll be an architect,” to which he replied, “Or maybe he’ll just be a guy who likes to tinker around and build stuff.”
Reality check. Not that we can’t have great expectations for our kids, but the pressure that comes with that is sometimes overwhelming, and they, in the end, need to decide who they are on their own.