Over the years our children’s interests have been all over the map. Some I’ve liked and some I haven’t. For example, in 6th grade, one of our sons wanted to experiment with using hair gel. I didn’t want him to use it, but then I remembered some of the crazy fashions my parents endured… Thank God, most of the evidence has been destroyed.
I bought the gel and suggested the amount to use. After spending long periods of time experimenting with style in front of the bathroom mirror, he emerged and asked me what I thought. Choosing my words carefully, I voiced my “preference” from the choices he presented. Then every day I prayed that this phase would pass quickly, only to wonder what the next phase of adolescence would present.
Sometimes our child’s interest is unfamiliar to us. For me, I was clueless about soccer. After watching a couple of matches, I realized that my conversations with my kids would be very short because I didn’t know enough about the sport to ask questions, much less understand anything they shared with me. So one day, I did what I can’t stand to do – I read the instructions. (I can’t stand to read any kind of instruction manual!)
I read “just enough” about soccer to learn some terms and rules of the game. I wanted to understand what my child was talking about when he was frustrated with himself, another player or the referee. I wanted to celebrate his effort and achievements and be able to ask questions that made sense.
Would simply attending his matches have been fine? Yes. But more is available to us, always. To be able to discuss our child’s interest with him at other times, such as in the car or during a meal, is a way to enrich our relationship.
We’re busy. It’s tempting to be glad our child has an interest and is therefore “occupied” with something. Independent activity is important. Relationship is more important. Intimate parent child relationships are developed spending ordinary time together, demonstrating interest and engaging in conversation that promotes encouragement and demonstrates the value and love we have for our child.
The question before us every day as parents is this: Are we interested?
If so, let’s show it.
The pursuit is worth it.