Does every child need a passion?
Am I subconsciously trying to turn my daughter into a new (and improved) version of me? Photo: Getty Images
While making my way around the supermarket with my four year old daughter in tow, a fellow shopper commented, in a kindly manner, on how my daughter and I were dressed in a similar fashion, and asked me whether I did it on purpose.
Slightly embarrassed I assured her that wasn’t the case. As the lady pushed her trolley away I cast new eyes on my daughter’s outfit then compared it with mine. On close inspection I realised that the lady’s observation was right – we were dressed very similarly.
Driving home, I began to wonder, was I subconsciously trying to turn my daughter into a new (and improved) version of me? From the way I dress her, to enrolling her in ballet, was I creating a mini replica of myself?
From the moment they are born, we wonder what the future will hold for our children. How we raise them and the values we teach them, will to a large extent determine the type of adult they will be. Obviously, most of the time we want our children to have the same, if not more, opportunities than we had as children. But along with that, are we trying to turn our kids into mirrors of ourselves?
From dress sense to career aspirations or sporting achievements, we all exert influence over the choices our children make.
Last year our son started prep and a whole new world opened up for him and us.
Going back to the school ground as an adult brought with it a lot of memories and started my husband and me thinking about what vocational path our son might follow and what extracurricular activities he might wish to partake in.
My love of reading and writing means that books are a major part of our household and I’m glad to say that our children have a healthy interest in reading. I don’t necessarily tape a book to their hand while they sleep but I do encourage storytelling.
Not surprisingly, our son barracks for the same football team as his dad, and having kept my ballet costume from childhood, our daughter dances around the house with wild enthusiasm.
But as I was recently re-enrolling our children in their various activities I asked myself, “when does the gentle nudge become the “pushy parent.”
World class athletes speak of a club or racquet being thrust into their hand before they could walk. Everyone has an opinion on child beauty pageants and how appropriate or otherwise Botox, high heels and makeup are for young girls.
The idea of the “pushy parent” is not new. Few are as severe – or indeed psychotic - as French father, Christophe Fauviau, who slipped tranquilizers into the drink of his son’s tennis opponent. But most of us have stories of parents that would stand on the sidelines screaming at their child to get involved when he or she clearly didn’t want to be there. I will never forget a friend’s parents enrolling her in the university course she didn’t wish to do, because they thought it would be a worthwhile career for her. And I still remember my mother’s disappointment, when at about five years of age, it was discovered I had an allergy to horses. She was an accomplished equestrian rider herself and had recently enrolled me in riding lessons.
So, are we as parents forcing our hopes and dreams onto our children or simply encouraging them to be the best they can be?
As an adult I have some regrets, missed opportunities that with hindsight I would change.
I can clearly remember my father’s words, “If you’d only listened to me.”
This desire for my children to not make the same mistakes as me, is done with the best of intentions but as they grow up is it the uncharted waters they will face and how they navigate them, that will mould who they become?
As I stood in the playground of my son’s school and watched the new preps running around, excited about their upcoming journey, I couldn’t help imagining them years down the track.
Doctor, dancer, scientist, sculptor, the options are varied and endless. The sponge that is a child’s mind will absorb whatever it is fed and children have an insatiable appetite to learn.
The truly magical thing about children is that they are all unique. Each excels at different things, each possesses varying and enlightening qualities and watching them grow is one of life’s greatest gifts.
I dream of a wonderful life for my children. I want them to be happy, to succeed, to thrive but most importantly to be themselves.
While it’s comforting to know there will always be parts of me in my children, maybe it’s allowing them to forge their own future that defines us as parents.