Grown-Ups Ruin Everything

In CategoryNavel Gazing

I’ve been thinking more about this after I vented a little the other day about how wary I am of getting my kids into group sports because of all the pressure to…to what, exactly? To get ahead? To win the next competition? To go pro? Always the pressure for more, better, bigger, faster. Something about it doesn’t seem healthy to me.

And then I had lunch with a friend last week, and of course we were talking about our kids. R has 3 terrific kids, and has homeschooled them from the beginning. She is a source of great encouragement to me, because her kids are almost grown and they’re  all fantastic. They are friendly, kind, not socially backward, and best of all, they are confidently the age that they are without any manufactured world-weary teenage ennui.

ANYway. She was telling me about her youngest, E, who is 17. E is the delightful teenager who used to come clean my bathrooms for me once a week (I highly recommend this if at all possible). She is also a really good amateur photographer, and she posts some pretty amazing pictures on Facebook.

We talked about one picture in particular, and then I asked if E wanted to be a photographer when she grows up.


The minute I said it, I realized that I was doing the very thing that some of the moms and dads and coaches whose kids play competitive sports do: trying to turn an interest into a vocation.

Why? Why do we do this? There is no reason to take something that a kid (or regular person, for that matter) is interested in and push them into making it something more.  More. Why do we want everything to be MORE? And don’t you think doing that can ruin the very thing that was previously loved?

If someone tried to tell me to try to make money knitting, it would ruin the whole thing. I don’t WANT knitting to be a job. I want it to be something I do for pleasure.

I do want my children to love what they choose to do for a living, of course I do. But I also need to be mindful that I don’t associate the worth of everything with money or a certain level of success. The older I get, the more I realize how much better it is to be motivated by what’s internal, by a passion. It makes me more satisfied and more confident; just plain happier in general.

And I’d like to communicate this realization to my kids so they aren’t 40 by the time they figure it out. The question is, how do I go about it?

14 Responses to “Grown-Ups Ruin Everything”

  1. Lori Says:

    love this post. hopefully skills and interests help inform their career choices, but i agree with you — sometimes having to earn money takes the enjoyment out of something. and a rich life should include a lot of things you enjoy doing just for themselves, not the income they might bring. i’ll be thinking more about this…
    Lori´s last blog post ..Dealing with haters

  2. Deb Says:

    Thank you, Lori!

    I don’t think I communicated well enough what an epiphany it was for me. Not everything needs to be all “oh, maybe you want to be that when you grow up.” We have most of our lives to worry about being grown up. Being a kid is special. It should be savored, not wasted always thinking of the future.

  3. hikooky Says:

    Lucky for you, I’m older and have paddled around this lake of mid-life reevaluation for some time now. I can offer invaluable words of wisdom. (I need that little tongue-in-cheek sign here.)

    Seriously, though, I know just of what you speak. Here’s my take. May it be helpful.

    I used to believe the lie that says we must achieve and accomplish according to our strength/talent/whatever obvious thing we exhibit as a young person. After some pretty difficult years of not achieving (according to those standards), I feel like God showed me something far more, well, MORE.

    The range of abilities he gives us is far beyond what we can understand, because we can’t know what lies ahead. I see my life now as an interesting variety of eras. As a young person, I trained and performed with some world-class choral groups. Now I sing rustily in the shower. And that’s okay. I have amazing memories to cherish, and today I rock at educating my children, which I never EVER could have imagined as a young chorister. In between, I spent time traveling the globe and living in two distinctly different cultures. I used to be so frustrated, trying to make sense of these diverse experiences, trying to fit them into a smooth, logical “plan.” Well.

    I’ve let go of the linear, specialist trajectory idea (which is bogus anyway) and embraced the variety and flow of what actually IS. I’ve been amazed to discover what God has shown me about life and my own little self since I trusted him with that. Bring on the wild and wacky, I say. All the better if it surprises and delights me.

    Anyhoo, enough of my ramblings. Forgive me if I didn’t speak exactly to what you posted about, but I hope something was helpful here. 😀

  4. Deb Says:

    Thank you! What an amazing comment! Yes, eras, I have that feeling too. It is amazing how everything that I learned and prepared for fits into my life, in a completely different way than I had imagined it would. Oh, that was a poorly formed sentence. Well, you know what I mean.

    Also, what an interesting life you’ve had. I did not know all that stuff before. Thank you for sharing that (and for saying I’m younger than you. I’m never younger than people anymore. Dang it. LOL)

  5. Melanie Says:

    I think the trick is to not make it about YOU. (That’s the trick for most parenting issues, isn’t it?) If your kid wants more of something (be it football, microbiology, or Gregorian chant), give him more if you can manage it, and get out of the way.

    By the way, you would not believe how many times my family has suggested that I go into the alterations business. It makes me insane.
    Melanie´s last blog post ..A Red Shawl

  6. Eddie - The Usual Mayhem Says:

    I wish I had some pithy advice to offer, but I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up so I’m in no position to advise kids.
    Eddie – The Usual Mayhem´s last blog post ..Schoolhouse Crew Review: APlusTutorSoft Math

  7. Ingi Says:

    Ah yes, the old “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question. Based on current interests, a professional YouTube watcher could be on the cards for my son. I’m someone will pay him for that!
    Ingi´s last blog post ..Interest-led learning – holiday style!

  8. maysdays Says:

    I am shocked that my 7-year-olds have internalized this notion and are concerned with “what will I be when I grow up?” Is it effective at all to stand there and holler “No, no, no!!”?

    In lieu of that, I try to say, “The future will take care of itself if you take care of today. *Who* are you today?” I think turning the “what” into “who” helps me to stop the rending of clothing and gnashing of teeth.

  9. Lori Says:

    we had an interesting chat about this on twitter last night. shouldn’t kids attach learning to work? my friend who teaches community college says he hated math when he was a student because he didn’t understand its real-world applications. once he understood you could use math to build things, he devoured it.

    my husband and i are self-employed and talking with our sons, we always connect learning with what you can do with it. that’s different, i think, from pressuring a child to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. it’s more about “skills and knowledge are really useful for doing interesting things.” not just in the murky future, but now as well.

    there are a lot of interesting ideas in this post and in the comments. my issue with asking the teenage girl if she wants to be a photographer when she grows up would be – isn’t she *already* a photographer? do we disrespect the work that kids do because it doesn’t earn money? because we assume it can’t be that good?

    both of my sons are very talented and we respect what they do and support it. but they also connect it to things they might do as adults. (they are 13 and 16 now.) growing up knowing that learning is for *you* to do what *you* think is important does, to me, translate easily into having an idea of how you’d like to live and work as an adult.

    i think the problem is when we see childhood as an entirely separate existence from adulthood. so, if you take photographs as a child that’s somehow completely different from an adult photographer. but of course it’s not. imo, rather than divorcing childhood from adulthood even more completely than it already is, children deserve to have a meaningful life where they and their work are respected. i think those kids will transition into adulthood much more easily.
    Lori´s last blog post ..Dealing with haters

  10. Deb Says:

    EXACTLY! Yes, exactly.

    She already IS a photographer, but my question basically insinuated that she wouldn’t be a REAL one unless there was somehow money or adulthood attached to it. Upsetting. Because a) I certainly did not mean to belittle her in any way, as she is extraordinary and b) what I said was, in fact, such a common and innocuous thing for an adult to say about a kid, and yet….so condescending.

    Even though I do make a concerted effort to support my children’s passions and not diminish them, and I take their thoughts and wishes very seriously in general, whether it’s what features they want in a house (we just moved) or what they want for dinner, there undoubtedly continue to be areas I can work on.


  11. Nan | Says:

    I like what Lori and Melanie wrote. They are wise.

    My opinion is that there is a huge gap between idling speculating if E will be a photographer when she grows up and deciding your child has a talent for photography and enrolling her in courses, buying her gear and making every aspect of her childhood and the family dynamic revolve around a lucrative professional career in photography.

    My perspective is tainted by the Canadian attitude toward hockey. If your boy isn’t playing hockey at 6 he’s missed the boat. It’s that early. And in a small town like this, a boy who shows SOME prowess is immediately cast as a future star and the entire family’s social status is elevated.

    I was going to disagree with you about profit killing passion, then I thought about all those kids who think that because they love video games they can have awesome careers as video game developers. Then I saw your point and now I’m nodding along with you.
    Nan |´s last blog post ..Warp Speed Wednesday: The Klingon Edition.

  12. Lori Says:

    nan nailed it there – in that huge gap between idle speculation and undue pressure is an area where you can support a child’s interest and respect that s/he will enjoy it and learn from it no matter what happens in the future.
    Lori´s last blog post ..Friday link round-up

  13. Kathy King Says:
    A video of a young teen talking about what he wants to be when he grows up. Well worth the few minutes.

  14. Diane Says:

    Great post. Definitely makes me think about the questions and advice I give to Grace.
    Diane´s last blog post ..Project-Based Learning – How It Looks In Our Home