I’m tired of hearing parents talk about how they want their child to find their “passion in life.” They say this as though this one miraculous interest would save them from a lifetime of challenges. Sometimes the parent is hoping the child finds a sport that will lead to a college scholarship or career. It seems like a reasonable desire on the part of the parent, until you look over at their child, and see this sweet child of 8 or 9 digging in the dirt with no reason at all to be concerned about colleges or careers. Why are we stressing ourselves and our children about finding a single intense interest so young?
Wanting My Child to Experience Life
Personally, I don’t want my child to find a single driving passion in their young lives. I want them to find a passion for life. I want them to learn to play an instrument, even if they never get good at it. I want them to learn to swim, even if they never win a race. I want them to try sports and dance classes. Not so that they can compete. So that they will have a better sense of their body and what it can do. I want them to try a martial arts class. Not so that they can get a black belt. But because someday they will know that they can throw one solid punch if they ever need to. I want them to try several things that they fail at so that they know that failure is a part of life.
Would I discourage my child from developing a passion, playing the same sport repeatedly or pursuing dance or gymnastics year after year? No, but I won’t push my child to do it either. While I believe in encouraging a child to try new things it has to be their choice to stick with it. Yes, there are some children who discover a true life long passion before they turn 15. But I don’t believe they are the majority, or even that they are better off for it. Spending years and years of your life dedicated to only one thing is just as likely to lead to burnout as to happiness.
Giving Children Room to Do the Work of Childhood
We have this false sense that children have all this extra time on their hands to use to become an expert at something, but it just isn’t true. Children need the time and space of childhood to learn to be fully functional humans. They need well-rounded childhoods full of experiences with art, music, camping, sports, friends, talking, laughing and playing. Having a childhood full of variety and fun will help your child navigate the challenges of adulthood much better. Can they tell a joke? That will help them make friends wherever they go, without becoming a stand-up comedian. Can they draw a picture of what they want to describe? That will help them communicate in all sorts of settings, without being an artist. Can they swim? It may save their life someday, even if they can’t win a race.
Setting a Good Example
From an early age, we are pushing our children harder and faster than ever before to fly through the fun of childhood and take on adult level learning and focus. Instead of pushing our children so hard, I propose we adults spend more time on our own passions. What are you passionate about? Did you ever learn to play the guitar? YouTube has many free lessons. Did you ever want to work on a political campaign? There are many ways to get involved. Do you want to write a book? Wake up early and write an hour before work each day, it is easier to do than jogging, since rain or snow isn’t an obstacle.
Maybe we are pushing our children to find passions because so many of us are stuck in jobs we don’t like and don’t know how to re-group. Give yourself time and permission to develop a passion, hobby or new skill and let your kid just go play, like a kid.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.