As parents, my husband and I made a commitment to support our children in following their passions. As easy as that sounds, sometimes this challenges us to leave our comfort zones, make thoughtful financial decisions, and get very creative. It also means that if something is important to them, it's important to us! That exclamation mark was put there to show you that not only is it important to us, meaning: we take their interests seriously, we never make fun of or tease about something they like, and we learn about topics right along side of them, we do our best to do so with enthusiasm. That means that I now care about Ponies, Taylor Swift, fashion, makeup, a variety of computer games, Harry Potter, award shows, so many movies! and even more television shows!! even though nothing on this list would likely be an interest of mine if I didn't have kids. Caring about what my kids care about brings us closer together, gives us shared interests and reasons to spend time together, and shows them in a very real way that I love them for who they are, unconditionally.
As a couple, my husband and I made a commitment to support each other in following our passions. Again, this is not all that easy. Supporting three children in following their passions takes a lot of time and energy. As adults we have more life experience. This makes it easier for us to delay gratification and understand that there may not be enough hours in the day to do everything we want to do, after we've helped everyone else do what they want to do. We know that our children will most likely be living in our house for just a few more years and then we will have time for many of those passions that have been simmering on the back burner. And, as our children grow older they are now able to support us in making more time for our own interests, which is really cool!
Right now my husband, Jess, is in the final stages of revision for his book Radical Family! Parenting: A Guide for Parenting with Compassion, Honesty, Respect, and Unconditional Love. Yesterday, Jess spent hours at the computer in the corner of our bedroom revising. It was a wonderful example of intrinsic motivation. He was on task, totally focused and not at all interested in doing anything else. That's great, because he really needs to get everything finished up so that it's ready for a final edit next week. On the other hand, it means that he was not helping with anything around the house or available for the kids. Here's how I supported him yesterday: I brought him tea and food because he wasn't going to stop to eat, I left him alone as much as possible while occasionally checking in to see if he needed anything, after many hours I suggested that we go for a walk, but I didn't pester him and waited until he was ready. When he did stop working we went for a walk. He then helped with the dishes, took out the garbage and spent time with the girls. I was sincerely appreciative because I knew part of him would have worked on that book until he fell into bed from exhaustion.
As parents we can support our children similarly, making sure they have food and drinks, and gently making suggestions if we feel they are not aware of their own needs. As it turns out, Jess really needed that walk. He'd been stuck on one paragraph and had been getting frustrated. Leaving the house and clearing his mind helped relieve the frustration and helped him get to a better place. Supporting Jess in writing his book has reminded me that often the best thing we can do for our kids when they are deeply into some activity, computer game, book or project is to leave them alone. Give them the time and space they need to do what it is they want to do. Be there so they can ask you for help, be open to their invitation to join in whatever they are doing, keep their basic needs met and set them free. Sharing their journey as they explore their interests and dig deeply into whatever it is that brings them delight is what parenting is all about.