What Will Become of You?
I’ve been guided to much clarity over the years to the importance of nurturing our young children’s interests – their authentic interests – not the ones we sometimes limit them to and then make them choose. As I look at my own life and those of many around me, I see so much to fascinate about.
Here are just a few stories that are fresh in my mind:
#1. As a well-conditioned adult, I held jobs that required lots of structure and uniform thinking. I was good at those jobs. The idea of entrepreneurship was terrifying to me and very far back in my mind as a possibility. I had no idea how to self discipline or self motivate. I was taught and learned to be very good at jumping through hoops others set for me. The rewards of praise, grades, money and societal status were my motivators. After my first child was born and I realized I would not return to work because I just had to be a full time mother, I was immersed in a life of my own design. Home every day, I didn’t have anyone pushing and prodding me to set or achieve the next goal. I had to figure it out. Years later when our family income went to zero after my husband was laid off, I knew I wanted to begin creating an income but not get a job; I was first and foremost a full time mom. The short version of a much longer story is that I became an entrepreneur, and a very happy one. The point of this story is that I have since recalled with much clarity that when I was a young girl I was a natural entrepreneur: at age 8, 9 and 10 I was creating and running a fun and successful neighborhood nursery school and carnival, loved for years by all the neighborhood kids and their parents. My dream even back then was to own a business or store where everything in the store was handmade – by me. I had completely lost touch with this natural desire and ability as I moved along on the standard educational treadmill.
#2. My family was together this weekend and we were all engrossed in reading my youngest son’s baby diary which I kept when he was little. We were shocked to read that at just 3 years old I was predicting that he would become a chef: he was intensely observant and very interested in everything I did in the kitchen, even loving it while hanging over my shoulder in his baby backpack on my back from very little on. He even had his own little cutting board and knife at age 2.5 to help me cut vegetables (I noted in the diary that there were only a few minor injuries as a result!) This son took his first chef job just last fall at age 22 at a super hip restaurant with an innovative and always evolving menu and not only loves it but is excellent at it.
#3. I have been spending time with a little boy lately. He is just now turning two years old and only says one word reliably: yes. He loves balls, and basketballs seem to be his favorite kind of ball. I got him a bucket of hand selected goodies and toys for Easter a few weeks ago, along with a blue basketball which did not fit in the bucket. When he saw his goodies, he only saw the ball. His joy and enthusiasm was electric and he showed zero interest in anything else. Last week he went for a walk through my neighborhood in a stroller. As he passed a house with a basketball net, he pointed eagerly. Hmmm… what is he pointing at? A car, no! shakes his head. A dog, no. A kitty, no. A bird, no. A kid, no. A basketball net? YES!!! he says. He discovers every single basketball net in the neighborhood during his walk. When returning to my house he doesn’t want to get out of the stroller. Do you want to go for another walk? YES! Do you want to see all the basketball nets again? YES!!
It is so easy to discount the interest of a two-year-old, technically still an infant, and chalk it up to something insignificant or simple or not really pay any attention to it at all. From what I have learned about the relationships between childhood interests and passions and adult work/play and joy/fulfillment, I wholeheartedly support your paying close attention. Nurture those interests. Watch them grow and lead to authentic challenge, contentment, confidence and growth. Growth which is ideally suited to the individual and that which opens all doors for opportunity, change and radical, life affirming fulfillment on so many levels.