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Friday Forum: A Child’s Personality and Individuality

{My mom always let me be me.}

Once upon a time, my wonderful friend, Emily, and I co-authored a blog called Bloom.  We created a series of Friday Forums, which became one of our favorite blog features, and I decided it’s time to bring them back!  These forums are meant for open discussion–for answering questions and perhaps helping us think about things in a new way.  Feel free to be open with your opinions.  But please be courteous.  There’s nothing that makes me more sad or cross than a comment thread full of meanies.

Roger is my second born.  He is newly seven and Pokemon-obsessed.  His mouth is full of gaps and crooked, loose teeth.  He has white hair, tan skin, and a dashing, dimply smile.  He is the best at compromising and has a tender heart.  And he would rather be outside planting seeds than just about anything else.  And.  He loves music.  Loves it.  We listened to him bellow out Let it go for about six months straight loves it.

A few weeks ago Roger came downstairs, begging to listen to my iPod shuffle, but I couldn’t find it.  “Is there a song you want to hear?” I asked.  “I could play it for you on the computer.”

“Yes!” he exclaimed.  “The one that goes Together!  We will something, something.  Together we will hum hum hum…”

I was baffled.  Without much for lyrics, plus rhythm and pitch troubles, I had no clue.  But as he kept going, he found his way a little more and I realized what he was singing.  Go West by the Pet Shop Boys.  I laughed out loud.  My six year old was begging for the Pet Shop Boys?  We have a lot of eighties music in our collection.  Taylor is a huge fan.  So Roger has heard it plenty.  It just really fascinated me that, in our whole library of music, of all the songs he hears in the car, in the kitchen, on the radio, with his peers…  Go West is one of the favorites.  What makes that happen?  Why does it stir something in his soul?

This has had me stewing for weeks about children’s personalities, individuality, talents, likes and dislikes.  How much do we influence them?  How much is completely innate?  Obviously this is a version of the classic nature vs. nurture debate, but my question for today’s forum is more specific and it is two-fold:

1.   How can we, as parents, ensure enough exposure to help our children find and develop their passions and talents?

Here’s what I mean: My mom took me to see one of the local high schools perform Hello, Dolly! when I was only six or seven years old.  Once the chorus came out and filled the auditorium with “Hello, Dolly, well hello Dolly” I was hooked on musicals.  I had shivers down my arms.  I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.  My youth then became all about singing, dance, and performing on stage– experiences that filled my adolescence with purpose and joy, and that impacted me forever.  Running gives me a similar ‘high,’ as do writing and creating.  As my children get older, I keep wondering, am I giving them varied enough experiences and exposure to find the things that bring those chills?  The things they will eventually excel at?  At this point in the thought process, my head usually begins to explode as I wonder things like “What if my son is capable of being a gold medal Biathlon winner but I never expose him to archery and cross country skiing?!”  (Insert laughing so hard I’m crying emoji right here.)  You guys!  Am I nuts?!  What do you think??

2.  How can we make sure we don’t over-step in this process?

Here’s what I mean:  How do we make sure we’re not pushing baseball or ballet because it was our passion?  On an even simpler level: are we over controlling on every day things and by so doing, are we squelching our child’s individuality?  For example, I am pretty controlling about what my children wear.  I don’t do licensed character apparel and I cringe when my boys want to wear track pants (“how about these skinny cords?”).  But look at the photograph of me above!  My mother always let me wear what I wanted (so long as I was appropriate!).  At 33, I still highly value my individuality and creativity.  What if she had squelched that?  Am I squelching that in my children?!  Where is the fine line between guiding and controlling?  (Head exploding, again.)  Weigh in, friends!

Over analyzing as always,


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