It trips parents up. Often. We assume that we know what will make our kids happy – and they don’t. Occasionally, when introducing something new, we’re right.
Last week, I took the girls to a local trampoline park knowing they would all love it. My youngest sat for 45 minutes insisting she wanted nothing to do with it. Eventually, she jumped. She loved it.
I was right.
Earlier that day, my 10 year-old auditioned for a big role in a play. I wrote about it here. I was certain that she really wanted it. I was certain that she just didn’t know how much she wanted it.
On Saturday, when we were told that she didn’t get the part, (even though she did beautifully in her audition and the directors really adore her), I didn’t know how to tell her. I didn’t want to tell her. I was afraid of the tears.
There were no tears. Hardly a moment of sadness. She shrugged and said “Oh, I like the part I got. My song is so pretty!”
And this is when I realized that maybe she gave her all (which is a great thing) but wasn’t all that invested in the outcome.
She doesn’t have a Broadway dream. She doesn’t want to be a star. She wants to spend her life caring for animals. Jane Goodall is her idol, not Adina Menzel. Although she loves being on stage, she does it because it’s fun. She’s there for the friendships, the laughs, the excitement. She happens to be a natural on stage. But at 10, I think she already knows that this isn’t what she wants to do with her life.
Had she gotten the main role, it would have dominated her life (and mine) for the next month. Would she have been happy? Maybe. She also would have been stressed I suppose.
I admit it. I pushed her to work hard. We both learned a lesson from my pushy ways. She learned to speak up and not worry that I will be disappointed, because now she understands that I will not be disappointed. I want her to pursue her dreams.
My lesson? I’ve been working on learning this for ages. I need to follow her lead. I need to help her find and follow her true passion in life and not let my own dreams for her cloud my judgement. Just because a child has a natural talent for something, doesn’t mean they have to spend their life perfecting it. What if they have many talents or interests?
Finding your passion (whether you are 10 or 42) is not necessarily an easy path, but that pursuit? It’s beautiful. Trying new things, putting your all into it and continuing on regardless of the outcome? Even in the failures, even when you change direction again, the ability to follow a new dream is an amazing skill that will make you happy throughout life.
I’m not suggesting anyone give up after one loss. My girl will keep performing for as long as she enjoys it. But she will keep performing, and investing her time to the extent that she desires. And when it no longer serves her, she will move on.
It may take 45 minutes for my little one to step onto the trampoline. It may take 45 years for me to finally write the words of the book that has floated in my head for decades. It’s okay.
The journey is the thing. -Homer (not Simpson)