I had a request for a “Monday mini-essay” about undiscovered talents based on this note. So here it goes. Thanks for the request, Becca!

–lizzie.

Manchild is in the middle of making a stop-motion video. But he gets distracted sometimes by wanting to ride his bike. And by the ideas he has for a different kind of calculator. And by the dream he has of making a real-life version of his favorite PBSKids.org game, “Going Batty.” He’s asked me recently what the most important part of making a movie is. He spends his morning building things with TRIO blocks and wooden blocks and has even said that he’d like to be a builder when he grows up. He’ll spend an hour or so in the morning cutting and pasting and coloring and writing in his activity books. But his afternoon is spent playing games, dreaming up games, telling me about all the games he’s played and thought up and wished he had. Sometimes, in the afternoon, we sit and read books together. Books like Put Me In The Zoo. Books like Winnie the Pooh. Books like Treasure Island. And books like In the Womb. His weekends are spent in anticipation of playing Ultimate, of running through the park, of finally getting across the monkey bars.

It is almost dizzying how quickly he moves from one thing to the next, how firmly he can get attached to an idea, how deeply he wants to explore it. I want to encourage him. I want to learn with him. I want to teach him to keep working at things, to see projects through to the end, to figure out how to solve the problems that are surely going to come up when you are making a live-action “Going Batty” game and you need a lot of wood to make a board and some bats. With each new interest or plan or hope I see potential to teach some of these things I think he should know how to do, or potential to find something that he is really good at, something he could pour himself into and find joy and fulfillment in for, possibly, the rest of his life. Maybe it becomes a quirky hobby that he does in his spare time or maybe it becomes the career he supports his family with. Or maybe it is just a phase, something new and novel that seems so important but loses its shine as the days go on.

As a mom, I am often ambivalent about how I should handle these passions. Part of me thinks I should be right there next to my kids, building castles, playing games, helping them sound out words. I need to be there to see where they have aptitude, where they may be struggling, where I should be encouraging them so that they don’t grow up to feel that there is nothing they can do, nothing they are good at. Or they grow up and suddenly discover there is something they can do, something they are really good at, and what if they would have known this when they were younger?

The other part of me thinks that they need some space to play freely, without my intervention. They need to be able to discover on their own where their talents and interests lie, what they want to pursue, independent of my own hopes and dreams for them. It is their life, not mine. They are their talents, not mine. And while I do want to encourage them and provide opportunities and options for them, I also want my children to know that they own their accomplishments, their talents, their gifts, not me.

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