I remember the news that I was going to be a parent. I immediately had my little one all planned out: his perfect set of manners, his perfect schedule, his perfect grades, the perfect friendships … and on and on and on. Before my first son was even more than a few hundred cells, I had worked out his life pretty much through college, employment and marriage! Ok, I wasn’t quite that over the top, but I sure had a whole lot of expectations. Mainly I expected that my son would be a lot like me. Yes, both of my sons are a lot like me in many ways; but each has his own spin on everything.
To be curious creates a whole different experience of life in general, but in parenthood especially. When you’re curious, you are telling yourself that you don’t know what’s in store and are excited to have the adventure that discovery brings. Having no expectations of temperament or personality for your child frees you to take pleasure in the surprise. It also frees you from the impossible job of trying to figure it all out and create his happiness. As you observe him with curiosity, his likes and dislikes will be very clear, making it easy for both of you to just get on with the enjoyment of life―and each other. One of the biggest setbacks for parents, and the root of many future battles, is the tightly held expectations you may have for your child’s likes, dislikes, skills, and personality.
The Steering Committee
When your young child shows a desire for something you didn’t expect (or with which you don’t agree), will you attempt to steer him toward something more in line with your own desires? Sure―we’ve all done this, and it’s a smart thing to do if your child desires something dangerous.
By all means: Steer!
What I’m talking about here, though, are the little things that don’t really matter much, such as loving rock climbing but not golf, or liking red more than pink. These are small things in themselves, but stringing a few together can create an internal conflict within your child of which neither one of you is consciously aware—yet. Your young child, following your lead to please you, will try to deny his feelings for a long time. But that old saying rings true eventually:
What you suppress will express in later days and in uglier ways.
Your child will suppress his own calling only so long. One day, when he can’t deny it any longer, it might explode out in all directions. Yikes―what a mess! By the time you see the explosion, you might not even know where to start unraveling it all to straighten it out.
A Wonderful Adventure
Discovering your child will be a great scavenger hunt or detective game to be played with a feeling of wonder and adventure. Though it seems impossible to believe, in the blink of an eye, your child will be on his own and totally responsible for his life. There are so many options out here in this great big world. Choosing among them is a very difficult job. Give him a head start by allowing him the space to be a curious sampler so that he can figure out what he likes early―and so you can be a part of the fun!
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