I had an interesting conversation a few summers ago. A mother was exhaustively, and proudly, telling me of the bizillion activities and lessons that each of her children were signed up for. After I listened to her going through each of her children’s daily itineraries she turned the question to me — what did I have my kids signed up for?
“Not much,” I simply replied. That short response didn’t seem to satisfy her. She questioned on.
“How about x? Or y?”
“Nope, we are not really into that.” Again, she persisted in the questioning. I’m not sure if she really wanted me to join in her competitive game, or if she was just looking for a gold star to be placed on her forehead. Finally I responded to her questions with more than a 5 word response, trying to end the conversation while respecting her pride in her children’s resumes.
“Alan and I just have our own philosophy on things like that.”
“Oh,” she said sympathetically, “you probably can’t do anything because of Bridger.”
Oh dear. My claws came out. I’m pretty good at tolerating annoying conversations, but when you bring little Bridger into it you better step back. Bridger has only cemented our philosophy. I took a deep breath, tucked my claws into the pockets of my jacket and looked at her with a smile and said nonchalantly, “No, I believe that kids will be plenty busy one day, and that day will come all too soon. I believe in just letting them be children for now.”
That ended the conversation. I have one thing that I do not wish about my childhood and one thing that I do. I do not wish that I’d had one more piano lesson. I do wish that I’d had one more date with my dad.
A friend sent me these musings; they are thoughts of a friend of hers. But they perfectly summarize my philosophy:
“I believe in downtime and childhood and non-regimented exploring. But sometimes it’s difficult not to get caught up in the competitive energy of it all. I do believe in education, in interesting experiences, and in supporting talent and hard work. I just have to remember I’m raising people, not college applicants, not just someone’s future employee. I’m raising someone’s best friend, someone’s spouse, someone’s mother or father.
I have to remind myself that what I want for my kids is a good life, with challenges and joys. To find something they love to do and develop the work ethic to do it well. To find someone to love and to know how to be loving. To use their imaginations and create ideas and passions to follow. To be able to articulate their thoughts. To be involved citizens and engaged neighbors. And, really, the camp for those things is called home.”
So what talent are we practicing here?