Knowing Your Child

Getting to know your child isn't always as easy as it seems. It requires tuning into him and tuning out what others might be doing.
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It isn't usually until the fall that I begin to hear chatter about parents wanting their kids to find their passion, who are eager to enroll their kids in specialized, extracurricular classes. I have already weighed in on this topic, kids finding passion. Eye roll.

But this year the search for passion's ignition key seems to be arriving early, right along with summer. Children are signed up for a week of volleyball camp, followed by one at basketball camp, one at lacrosse camp, and one learning to fence. Which specialty will catch on?

Then I received the link to Simon's video. Simon plays the bagpipes. You heard it right, bagpipes! You, too, can watch him do his (amazing) thing, decked out in his kilt, his kilt pin with his family's clan, and the matching tie in his family tartan.

Simon was not interested in all the typical after school activities, not a team sports sort of guy. In fact, he's not a typical sort of kid. His mom figured that out early on and stopped pushing him toward the activities other kids were doing when Simon genuinely wasn't interested. She began getting to know her son, pursuing his lead.

When Simon was 5-years-old, he learned of his family's Scottish heritage, and he wanted a kilt. Later, in school Simon, unsolicitedly, wrote a report on Scotland. It was then that he asked to take bagpipe lessons. Finding a bagpipe teacher, let alone bagpipes, was no easy fete, and it took time, patience, and perseverance on both their parts. Mom gave it her all and pulled it off.

The rest is kind of history. Now, Simon really does play "the pipes," as they say.

Simon's video came to me just weeks after I received a link to the video of the daughter of another client. who is an Irish dancer. Yes, that's right, just like River Dance. And she is so good that her team wins Irish dance competitions. The child's four times-weekly-distant-practices are taxing to be sure, but this mom also listened to her child, knew her child, and was able to make it happen. Not everyone could have.

Bagpipes? Irish dance? These kids are, in reality, passionate about the activities they chose. They are passionate, they love, and they are tremendously proud of what they do. Neither of these activities was convenient to set up nor easy or quick to learn thereafter. Both have entailed a tremendous amount of practice and devotion beyond that one game and one practice a week. They required really hard work from the child and amazing resourcefulness from the parent in order to breathe life into the interest.

Passion? What about self esteem? Can you imagine the self esteem that each of these kids has?

Many people suffer from a misguided notion about how self esteem is grown. They think that heaping on the praise or receiving the "everyone-plays-end-of-the season-trophy" will fertilize soil in which self esteem grows. But in playing the bagpipes and doing Irish dance lies some proof that self esteem fully blossoms in an ecosystem of individual, hard work that leads to accomplishment. These children are pleasing themselves. The desire and the motivation are coming from them. Their own dreams are being fulfilled, not those of the parent. And they are not "keeping up" with anyone else, just themselves (and maybe the other Irish dancers or bagpipers.)

Getting to know your child isn't always as easy as it seems. It requires tuning into him and tuning out what others might be doing. Sometimes it means putting his interests in front of yours for him. You might feel like a salmon swimming upstream when you forego the Little league tryouts or use the soccer field for flying a kite. You may have to let go of your dream of having a piano player. But having a passionate bagpipes player is well worth it. And it brings the child that much closer to realizing his potential on his own terms, ones to which he can relate.

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