A couple years ago, I found myself loading my son’s two goats into a trailer to take to the elementary school. For most of the school year, my then-10-year-old talked incessantly to his class about his goat Hank; in the previous few weeks he had begun adding stories of his newest goat, Lily. Perhaps, in an effort to quell the talking, the teacher generously authorized a special “show and tell.”
As my husband was unavailable that day, I had to pull a trailer with two goats the 1.5 miles to school. It was the first time I had pulled a trailer, and I spent the short drive vacillating between fear that I would have to use reverse with the trailer attached and excitement about the look I knew I would soon see on my son’s face as he showed the goats to his peers. The story behind our second child turning his city-raised parents into pseudo-farmers is a story for another day. But in the course of that happening, I have learned a few things that may be valuable to other parents, regardless of whether their children own goats, swim competitively, or perform with a marching band.
Keep an open mind
I will never forget the day I arrived home and found my son fully dressed in “Western attire.” I had been out of town for a couple of days, and my husband had taken it upon himself to fulfill my son’s dreams of owning his very own pair of Wranglers. But, a new pair of jeans apparently wasn’t enough. A cowboy hat, belt, and buckle were added to the one piece of cowboy attire (cowboy boots) my son had owned when I left town.
At this point, I had never stepped foot in a “Western store”, I had never sat on a horse, nor had I ever, in my wildest dreams, thought I would have a “cowboy” as a son.
Eight years (and a horse) later, cowboy boots, ropes, and animal paraphernalia are strewn throughout our house and yard. As our son has pulled us into a genre we never expected, we have gained an appreciation and respect this unique interest. (I’ll even admit that owning a pair of red leather cowboy boots is on my bucket list.)
Listen and care
I have a teenage daughter who is musically talented. She plays both the harp, and the organ for our church congregation. Several times, I have sat in the church while my daughter practices. She experiments with the switches and pedals, and often asks for my opinion or reaction. Her musical talent does not come from my genes, and there are times I really can’t tell a difference between one note she played and another. On one occasion, I’m ashamed to say I told her, “Just practice and quit telling me about it.”
Then it occurred to me it wasn’t my opinion she wanted; she wanted to share her excitement and enthusiasm about discovering a new organ technique. Even if my untrained musical ear can’t tell what is happening, I am learning to listen and show a genuine interest in her discoveries.
Have a good attitude
I am not a natural optimist. Negative thoughts usually come to my mind before positive ones. With that said, I have learned how vital a positive attitude is to supporting our children in their interests. I don’t love hauling a heavy pedal harp to performances, nor do I like the smell of goat feed in the back of my car. I don’t love gymnastics shows with crowds of overeager parents, and I’m not a fan of football games. But, my children don’t need to know that. Or more correctly, they don’t need to hear me say that.
Seeing my son walk out the school doors that spring day with a big smile on his face while his school class trailed behind him is a picture in my mind I hope I never forget. Likewise, I hope my son will forever remember the sight of his mother standing beside a trailer in the school parking lot trying to quiet down two loud goats.
It isn’t about driving goats to school or driving children to football practice. It’s about making what matters to our children, matter to us.
Question: Do your children have interests and talents in areas that are new to you? How do you encourage them?
Challenge: Find ways to support your children in their hobbies and interests even if it isn’t something you are naturally interested in yourself.