My daughter is only three, but the other day at the children’s museum, she took a serious interest in the solar system. There are gigantic wall decals of every planet that fill the wall on our way to the planetarium, and she stopped at each one, staring at it intently, asking for help in sounding out the names, and inquiring about what each one was. I’ll admit, as someone who paid so much more attention in English class than science, most of her questions had my head swirling, but as soon as we got home, we had so much fun figuring out the answers together.
Will she become an inventor? Will she be a scientist in a lab coat, peering into test tubes and finding all sorts of incredible discoveries? Maybe. Or, maybe she’ll be a basketball player or a cellist or a writer instead. She’s not quite four yet, and already her interests are wide-reaching and vastly varied. In the same vein, my son loves everything football-related, but is also musically inclined and a pretty great dancer for a toddler who just turned two. It might be too early to tell what sorts of talents and abilities they’ll grow into, but as their mother, it’s a joy to watch them discover new hobbies and take on new fascinations.
For a while, I thought that meant I had to delve deeply into each one. We joined a mommy and me music class as soon as my daughter started using wooden spoons as drumsticks. I enrolled her in soccer the second she asked me if she could join a team with her friends. I took my son to a toddler art camp when he started doodling on construction paper last summer. In many ways, these experiences enriched them and helped us bond. Especially as a stay-at-home mother of two, I needed something to get us out of the house and help structure our days. Yet, at the end of that summer, my son was so tired of coloring and drawing he barely picked up a crayon. My daughter decided that she’s going to take the fall season off and pick back up with soccer in the spring if she feels like it.
The thing is, not every interest will stick. Like the ocean we just visited with family, they will ebb and flow, wax and wane with the seasons. As their mother, it’s my responsibility to help them find, pursue and follow through if something sparks their intrigue. Yet, as much as I’d love for them to be the next Picasso or Mozart, I can’t push them into anything that isn’t going to be a natural fit. Moreover, we don’t have to dive headfirst into every single option that comes our way. They aren’t old enough yet to have that discernment, so I need to practice it for them. Down the road, that might mean helping my son master guitar practice, or enrolling my daughter in dance class. It might mean riding with them to Quiz Bowl championships, band concerts, cheerleading competitions and baseball tournaments. My weekends might be filled to the brim with their extracurriculars, but for now, they’re two and four.
For now, I’ll let them run outside and play in the sprinkler. They’ll splash in the pool, help me in the garden, and stay outside way past their bedtimes thanks to the longer summer days. Put simply, they’ll just be kids. One day, they’ll find that interest that makes their heart soar and it will be my utter honor to help encourage them along their path. Yet, if there’s anything I’ve learned in my parenting journey so far, it’s that the greatest gift we can give our children is a set of wings. Do I want them to use those wings to turn around and travel back home every chance they get, especially as they get older? Of course. Yet, I also want them to explore, taste, see and do everything this big world has to offer, discovering new things about themselves along the way.