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My husband found his passion at an impossibly young age. It seemed impossibly young in
the '80s, that is. Today, kids are thrown
into a world of "passion" the minute they can talk.
Ever have a parent tell you that a
4-year-old has perfect pitch? Right. How about those YouTube videos of singing,
piano playing, dancing or drumming stars? You know, the ones where the
stars of the show are barely even out of diapers?
A recent article in the New York Times Motherlode blog
paints a rather dreary picture of passion. Parents become such "passion pushers" that they fail to allow
children the freedom of curiosity. While
that might be true, it's not passion that's the problem—it's passion-pushing parents.
My husband picked up his very first bass guitar at age
11. As the story goes, it was
opportunity, not unbridled passion, which caused him to choose the bass over,
say, the guitar. In that particular
neighborhood garage band in the Berkshires, a bass player was in demand (guitar, not so much.) But once he picked it up,
he found that he couldn't put it down. At 14, he taught lessons to other kids. At 16, he went pro and toured with Arlo Guthrie. It might have been chance that sparked his
interest in the bass, but passion kept him going. To this day, when he walks on that stage and
straps on that bass in front of thousands of screaming fans, I can see the passion in
That's where he belongs.
Kids do have passion. When you allow them to experience childhood unplugged, they find their passion.
It should be noted, however, that his passion for music (a
passion his parents didn't really know what to do with, so they simply stood
back and cheered him on) wasn't his only passion. For years, he continued to play baseball and
football. And he really really, really wanted to be a veterinarian. Later, he focused on his love of math and
history. He did all things children
should do. He spent endless hours
outside, he spent time with friends and family, he did his homework and he
explored all of his interests.
But he always returned to the bass because the bass is his passion.
The difference between a passionate child in the '80s and a
passionate child today is that the passion pushers take over in this race-to-the-finish-line time of parenting. While my husband's parents helped him buy one
bass and one amp and then told him to go for it, a passion pusher of today
would have him enrolled in every possible musical opportunity and demand hours
upon hours of practice. In short? A passion pusher would kill the passion.
Kids do have passion. When you allow them to experience childhood unplugged, they find their
passion. Free play, a rare commodity in
the lives of many overscheduled and overtired children, is the single best
way to give your child the gift of passion. Through free play, children explore their interests, their fears, the
world around them and just about everything else. Through free play, children figure out who they are and who they want to
Passion pushers don't allow for
that, though. There's no time for something
as gratuitous as free play, when the future of an 8-year-old is at stake,
Passion doesn't have to be one big thing. Passion can be comprised of several little things. Passion can mean moving from thing to thing and having a zest for a little bit of everything.
Children of today are losing childhood to the pursuit of
excellence, not passion. Parents are so focused on
the end goal that they forget to allow children to experience the here and
now. Kids are high on
stress and low on time to just be kids.
My 8-year-old daughter has passion. If you ask her what her passion is, she'll
blurt out "Irish dance!" without a second thought. But that's not her only source of
passion. She's passionate about drawing,
fort building, playing with stuffed animals, gardening, baking, exploring
nature, caring for animals and approximately 1,000 other things. Will any of these passions be her golden ticket
to a lifetime of success and happiness? It's too soon to tell. But
yesterday she created a squirrel-feeding zone to divert the squirrels away from the
freshly painted birdhouse she made two days prior. She feels pretty happy and
successful as a result.
So for now, we'll
stick with the good feelings that emerge simply from being a child.
Passion doesn't have to be one big thing. Passion can be comprised of several little
things. Passion can mean moving from
thing to thing and having a zest for a little bit of everything. The very essence of passion is that it's
personal—unique to each individual. Parents can't demand it, create it or inspire it. Parents can only stand back and support their
kids when—and if—they find it.
Because lack of one specific passion does not equal a lifetime of dissatisfaction,
you know, and some people find their true passions much later in life.
Let the children play. Let them have passion on their own terms. Let them explore every little interest and
engage in boundless curiosity. Let go of
the future for a moment so that your kids can enjoy the present .