Today’s guest post is by Ashley O’Neill, who is an editor for The Savvy Source for Parents, an early childhood education website, and blogs there as “Coffee Queen.”
Yesterday, I took my daughter to the museum. She fancies herself quite the artist and asked if we could go. Being an art buff myself, I was thrilled to oblige. Iâ€™m always happy when she wants to do something that doesnâ€™t involve buying new toys, and she actually is a pretty good artist. Who knows whether sheâ€™ll become the next Georgia Oâ€™Keeffe or Cindy Sherman, but itâ€™s nice to see her find â€œher thingâ€ in this world. Some kids love to dance, some love to play sports â€” she loves to draw. Itâ€™s her passion. Not only does she love to do it, but sheâ€™s proud of her abilities. Finding something that sheâ€™s good at has done wonders for her confidence and it makes her feel special.
As the summer approaches, like many parents, weâ€™re faced with the question of how to spend our time â€” a question made even more significant by my working at home and needing to keep up with my work during those months when school is out. Should we spend our money on a really great vacation? Should we spend our money on a membership to a pool? Those are both things that all of us would enjoy (and enjoy a lot!), but they donâ€™t help me with my work. Maybe we should spend our budget on summer camps for the kids? My daughter thinks those a lot of fun â€” and they will give me time at home alone to work â€” but my son is painfully shy and has terrible separation anxiety. I donâ€™t see him enjoying going to bunch of new places. Maybe we should focus our summer on nurturing our daughterâ€™s love for art? She would be thrilled to spend the summer in art classes and camps. But that begs the question: At what point do we, as parents, know when to focus on something like my daughterâ€™s love for drawing?
Living in Texas, I read a lot of stories about teenagers and young adults who excel at football. Frequently these stories include an anecdote about their parentsâ€™ encouragement and support â€” time, emotional, and financial â€” for this one particular passion in their child. These parents recognized that this one thing was important to their children and went the extra mile to develop this talent. Is this that moment for me? My daughter does truly love art â€” both the practice and the study of it. She pores over my old art history books, admiring the skill and technique of our most important artists. But at her young age, how can I possibly know whether this is the one thing that she is meant to be? How did these other parents â€œknowâ€ that their child was destined to be a football star or golf prodigy or violin virtuoso?
Itâ€™s true that she loves art, but she also really likes to sing and play with horses. While I would love for her to continue to develop this skill, and perhaps excel at it one day, I also want her to explore other things. I want to see her up on a stage singing her heart out in a kidsâ€™ musical. I want to see her riding a horse, like the Texan that she is. I want to see her try new things each year, and thatâ€™s what the summer is for. The summer gives children a chance to spread their wings. They get to break the school year routine and live life at a different pace. Maybe if I did push her in the direction of art she would become the next Van Gogh, but what else might she miss out on? And what if I end up pushing her away from something that she loves? That would be horrible.
So while I donâ€™t know exactly how I will solve the dilemma of our summer time, I do know that I hope to find a good mixture of things for us to do. Some of our budget will go toward things that we can do as a family, some will go toward encouraging my children to try something new, and some will certainly go toward nurturing my daughterâ€™s passion for art. It wonâ€™t be the best of all possible worlds for my schedule, but I am committed to being a well-rounded mom, too.
A wise woman once told me that I donâ€™t have to do just one thing for the rest of my life â€” and I think that I was 22 or 23 when she told me this. I took that advice to heart. Since high school, I have worked in six different fields. Some I enjoyed more than others, some taught me more than others, some I was better at than others, but I learned something about myself from doing each job. Thatâ€™s what I want for my children. I want them to find something that theyâ€™re good at and that they love, but I donâ€™t want them to think thatâ€™s all there is â€” either to them or for them.
Iâ€™m always up for a new challenge, and I want our summers to be full of that sense of adventure and newness. That will take some compromises on my part, but my kids are worth it. The journey is just as important as the goal.
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