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Fly Fast! Fly Free! But Maybe Head East …

Posted in: Blog by admin on September 23, 2010

July 16, 2010

About half of the summer has already come and gone. And, while that fact reminds me of all that I still want to enjoy during these warm, carefree months, it also means that the first session of camp is over, and I get to go see my boy today! I am so eager to wrap my arms around him, to see that little face, to cut his nails and clean him up, to determine if he is really happy at camp and to reassure myself that we made the right decision in sending him to this new camp this summer. That need for our own reassurance is interesting to me and a bit troubling at the same time …

As parents, what is our responsibility in setting our children on a specific path? How much of their interests and passions are really pre-determined by us? We say we want to raise independent beings who we will then let fly, but don’t we try to control so many of the steps they take until take-off? And, don’t we even try to nudge them into a certain flying pattern? Even as adults, don’t so many of us still see that happening as our own parents are still occasionally (or oftentimes!) trying to take our feet and point them in another direction?

I remember when my sister wanted to move to San Francisco after college. My mom was so upset that her baby was going to be thousands of miles from “the coup,” but my dad reminded her of an important philosophy: He told her that they raised their daughters to be independent and free, and she should let her go with pride, knowing that they accomplished an important parenting goal. Two points for dad. But, it’s not that easy. Dad might lose a couple of points, too. (Keep reading …) How often do we have such strong, wise philosophies as parents that somehow are not always applicable? And, how do we know when our kids are “independent” and “ready to fly.”

That brings me back to that decision about camp. My firstborn Ben had spent the last few years at a camp where he felt comfortable, safe and happy. He always had fun, and he even earned the moniker Captain Kite. But, I saw something in him that led me to believe he was ready for more. He was an adventurer. He was innately a mountain boy, as he always wanted to go climbing and was so interested in going tripping. Thus, it was time for a new, more challenging camp experience. So, I made the decision. I convinced his father. And, I convinced Ben. Or did he convince me? I like to believe that he had the power — that I was so in tune with his interests that I knew what was best for him and subtly nudged him in the right direction … the direction he was outlining for me.

Do we really know? And, if we don’t know, how does my 11-year-old boy know what he really desires? What about our nine-year-old and six-year-old daughters? Sometimes the little ones really make it easy for us: Maybe your two-year-old boy is always holding a football and can’t take his eyes off of the games. Then, maybe years later, that same boy begs you to play on a local football team. The passion spirals and grows, and for years, it is obvious that this child has found “his sport.”

But what happens when our children don’t make it that easy for us? Or what happens when our own dreams become our kids’ dreams?

Let’s take me, for example. I loved everything! If I was dancing I was happy. If I was standing on my head, I was happy (too happy … but that’s a story for another day!). I loved wearing ballet shoes and surrounding myself with everything pink. And, I always joked that one day, the ballet shoes came off and the hightops went on … and off I flew in a new direction. Just like that. Basketball became “my passion.” I shot hoops in the driveway every day. I practiced before school at 6:00 a.m. I started going to Doug Bruno’s Girls’ Basketball camp, where I spent my weeks running from drill to drill, yelling “I love it! I love it! I love it!” whenever the word “basketball” was heard. It was being ingrained in me. Basketball flowed through my veins. But, how did I get there? What was this skinny, little Jewish girl from the Northshore doing at these camps?

I was the baby of three girls, born to a father who apparently had high levels of testosterone, always had the games on TV and who always wanted a little boy. So, it’s hard to determine what happened: Did I ditch the tutu for the Celtics’ jersey to please him, to be that little boy, to separate myself from his other daughters? Or was basketball really “my thing?” Or, is it possible, that he, the man who told my mom to let their babies fly free, was indirectly paving out my path for me?

And, now I return to my current journey … to my son’s journey. He is at a tripping camp. He has written that he loves the trips the most. He loves paddling and backpacking and eating food while camping that is “prepared fresh!”

It appears that we made the right choice. It appears that this is where Ben should be. It appears that he is happy.

But I know that he can be happy at many camps. I know that children are especially malleable. Their interests are being molded daily, but it’s hard to determine who should be the sculptor. Of course, it seems obvious: We are here to direct them, to provide them with choices and options and opportunities — To present them with options with which they can then fly. There are so many options though! I have not exposed my daughters to karate or hockey or jazz. What if that is “their thing?” What if Gabrielle Reece was never given a volleyball and a patch of sand? Would she have stumbled upon that career on her own?

Are our parents wrong to push us in directions that they believe are best for us? To send us to camps where they went for many years?

And, when a little girl’s all pink room is suddenly covered with posters of Larry Bird and The Iceman, do the parents then have the knowledge that their baby girl has discovered her passion? Or, as she focuses on Bobby Knight’s video for the hundredth time, do they know that she has actually absorbed their dreams and desires?

A smile is a smile. Joy is joy. Passion is passion. If our children our happy, then we are happy. Maybe it doesn’t matter which came first … who directed the passions … who directed the desires. Or maybe it matters more than we’ll allow ourselves to believe.

All I know for now is that I can’t wait to see my little guy who will hopefully have a big smile stretched across his face — Whether I helped put it there or not, I just want to know he is happy. And, I have the second half of the summer to research the overwhelming array of activities and hobbies that are available to our children this Fall. And, if I don’t get to it, then I will be confident that they will somehow fly to that place where they should be … landing on grass or the beach or the mountaintops or on Doug Bruno’s “Love It Lane.”

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