Mother Musings: A word on kids’ activities

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Kids are just so busy these days, don’t you think?

They have to have a sport, good grades, speak a second language, play an instrument and still have time to have fun.

Personally, I care more about helping my kids find their passion than anything else, that thing that fuels you to become who you are.

But I had to find mine in order to teach my kids how to find theirs.

I always thought I knew what my passions were while growing up. But when I look back on it, I now see that they were more ambitions than passions. I was constantly striving to meet the high and well-meaning expectations of those around me. But I never took the time to really consider what I love to do, independent of recognition or reward.

In my 30s, I was finally fed up with chasing after everyone’s expectation of me and ready to start trusting those desires and living the life that I wanted.

A while back, I listened to a speech about how to find your calling in life. Nothing the speaker said really resonated with me until this part — “Our strongest gifts tend to appear early in life, so it might help if you think back on your childhood and about how and what you played.”

As I thought about these words, my mind immediately went to my childhood basement. My parents had seven children, most of whom were not the calm, sit still, do-as-you’re-told type.

Needless to say, with that much organized chaos (as we like to call it), the basement became a black hole over the years of unfinished projects, souvenirs and clutter collected throughout the day, waiting to find a home again.

I loved being down there. I would often rummage through the boxes and piles, imagining how an item got there or what prompted my parents to buy it.

But what I was most drawn to were the books. Not the picture books or even the novels, but the nonfiction books — everything from self-help to religion to memoirs.

When I was in middle school, I remember this one particular book. It was a quote book from some wise, old author (I still don’t remember his name). It was blue with silver lettering and zero pictures. I remember reading that book for hours by myself in the shadows of that basement. I loved considering each quote as I marveled at his way of putting thoughts and ideas into such concise and clear wording.

What I didn’t realize was how peculiar it was for an 11-year-old girl to choose her stuffy basement as her form of play.

It took me 25 years to realize what I was doing — marveling at the art of writing and expressing.

And to realize how much I was attracted to that form of art.

But I discovered more clues along the way.

Like most people, sometimes we just can’t sleep. The usual culprits are too much caffeine or anxiety. But what about the times where we can’t sleep when we’re too excited? Besides Christmas and my birthday, this happened often over the years. I would find myself lying awake thinking about what I would say in random scenarios. In my head, but while desperately trying to fall asleep, I have crafted opening speeches of being voted the first woman president of the United States, what I would say to a man who kidnapped me or the better sermon I would have given than the one I just heard.

It was only when I shared this habit with a friend that I realized what it meant. Her response was, “Oh, interesting. I stay up all night thinking about what I’m going to sew the next day.”

Wait, what?

She didn’t think about words? She didn’t dream in words?

From then on, I continued to read and to write as a form of play.

As I started exploring this creative part of myself, it unleashed a joy that I had not experienced in a long time. Life was not a to-do list, but something to fully experience.

This is what I want for my children.

I often hear parents talk about how involved or intense their kids’ activities should be. There is a lot of pressure for our kids to be the best and to do it young so they can reach their “full potential.”

My opinion is that my kids are not going to the Olympics. They’re not prodigies. They’re normal, average Janes and Joes.

And that is exactly what makes them capable of changing the world. Because the purpose of life isn’t to be the best, in my book. The purpose of life is to live it … and help people along the way.

According to our budget and time constraints, I sign my kids up for whatever they want, for how long they want, in the cheapest way possible, even if that means I am the teacher/coach using a Youtube video I watched the night before.

And I watch.

I watch for what gives them that spark … and then I do my best to fan the flames.

Stacey Carruth is a parent with four children in Arapahoe County.

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