Slice of Life Tuesday: Kids Find Their Way…Without A Lot of Pushing, Just Support.

Did I have a writer?

Did I have a mathematician?

Did I have an athlete?

Did I have an inventor?

Did I have …

At six, most kids don’t know what they want to be. Even if they exhibit high potential or even giftedness in a particular area. In Kindergarten, one of mine wanted to be a fireman, and another an artist. I did end up with one of those, but it is probably not the one you think!

In first grade, one of mine wrote a nine-chapter book on the planets. He wrote it on his own using books we had in our home. He illustrated it too.

In second grade, he drew large (16x 20) detailed pictures of a town. His town. With streets and buildings.

He became interested in origami in third grade and became president of a local Chapter of Origami Salami, headed by a high school student in Pennsylvania. (We live in Wisconsin.) He participated in a traveling art exhibit and was featured in a publication by Origami.org. He also had a traveling exhibit of origami in fourth grade showing his craft that made it to libraries in our own school district.

By fifth grade, he was writing poems, two were published in adjudicated anthologies for young people. He was still making origami of more and more complex pieces, some were even mobile. No cutting, pasting, or tape. Just folds. I couldn’t do it, nor could my husband. But, he could. And did. We just supplied the resources. But, we didn’t teach him. We didn’t know how.

Origami by Ben. Photo by Carol Labuzzetta, 2010 (?).

His interest in art grew in middle school, with drawings using markers and colored pencils. No one took much notice, until high school.

By then, he had found his passion and his art teacher saw it. His passion was art, which also happened to be his gift. Today, our youngest son is a self-employed artist. Do not confuse this with struggling because he’s doing fine. On his journey, he passed up admission into his #1 college choice, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and even a small scholarship from them to start his own art business at 19. We supported his decision.

We let him travel to LA – his first time on a plane alone – to stay in a house with other artists for a week at a time. Was this hard for me as his mom? You bet! He did this twice, finding out it wasn’t really what he wanted. He wanted to be his own boss – master of his own destiny. And, so he came home and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota where he currently rents a studio for his painting.

This child, as well as our other two, have the talent to do anything they pursue. He was a talented athlete and well as a very good student. He chose to immerse himself in his art, as opposed to academics and athletics. He knew what was right for him, and we let him pursue it without pushing him into a slot or traditional path that would not have been a good fit. He is happy. Happy! It is important to let your child/student find what makes them happy. Happiness seems to breed success.

What’s My Point?

Why am I writing this? Well, there are several reasons. But the biggest is that I see lots of adults trying to mold their young. Although I know we did this too, we tried to minimize it. You cannot give someone their passion. Nor can you expect their passion to remain the same as they grow.

As a parent, or grandparent, you can support, encourage, and provide resources but you cannot keep the child in the spot where you want them. As they explore their passions (dance, theater, art, gaming, music, sports, tech, academics) you also must provide them space to grow and even grow away from the very thing they are excelling at. You must still support, encourage and provide resources – even if they’re not going to be the writer, storyteller, poet, artist, or musician you see them as being. It is their life, not yours. You can be proud but you cannot push them to continue your path – a path you know or a path you want them to follow. I see this as a mistake being made over and over and over again and being talked about or promoted on social media.

The Future is Theirs

College is no longer the only path to success. Tech and trade jobs are in demand right now. A ladder can be climbed with experience, apprenticeships, time, and perseverance, as well as a well-timed choice to pursue one of these options. Again, support this choice.

Many are going to college for things that will not bear a job in a chosen field. We’ve seen this with those pursuing psychology, theater, and even biology. Even with college degrees, it is hard to find a job in certain fields that pays one enough to live on. I’ve seen this in my own field (second career) of environmental education. I have a master’s degree in Natural Resources. The EE/EI jobs are typically very low paying and require weekend hours and mobility. It’s difficult. Luckily, I don’t depend on a wage from that degree.

All I’m saying is that when it comes to our youth, we need to support and provide encouragement but let them find their own path. It might not be the path you chose for them. It might not include higher education. It might mean changing majors even if college is pursued. But let them figure it out. They will, eventually. And their choices will be theirs, not yours.

Hey, it’s normal to have dreams for your kids. Just don’t let your dream determine what they do. Their dream might look very different but make them just as happy!

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday. This post was published on my Medium.com page earlier today. Slice of Life was created and is hosted by TwoWritingTeachers.org. It is a wonderfully supportive forum for educators and authors and anyone else who’d like to participate. I have posted to the forum since 2017. Thank you to TwoWritingTeachers.org for your gracious organization and the support you offer others.

4 thoughts

  1. What a beautiful, well-told, inspirational account. I have created a Wonder Studio at my school for kids to come and tinker at recess time. I marvel at the things they create from their own imaginations. I don’t know what they will become – but I know they will have confidence, creativity, and joy going forward doing what they love.

    Liked by 1 person

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