Nothing Reveals Your Self-Centeredness Like Parenting

News flash, right? If you’ve got kids, you know what I’m talking about.

But specifically, I am being reminded right now of my selfishness as we do what many parents do as their kids grow up – help them find their “thing.” The “thing” in question could be anything: baseball, dance, painting, playing the piano, academics – you name it. It’s that thing that your child is gifted at, enjoys, and takes pleasure in.

Here’s the thing, though – I think we naturally want our kids to have our “thing.” I played sports growing up. I wasn’t great, but I enjoyed it. Even today, there’s not much better to me than sitting on my couch on a Saturday afternoon watching college football. Or the World Series. I’ll even settle for the World Cup. And I’m realizing that I’ve been trying to impose my thing on Joshua, our 5-year-old.

He enjoys playing, too, but it feels like when he watches 5 minutes of a game with me he’s doing so out of the goodness of his heart. What he’d rather be doing is playing with Lego’s. Or telling stories to each other. Or setting up an elaborate Star Wars-based live action drama in the living room.

Not watching the ball game.

But my job as a dad isn’t to make him do my thing; it’s to help him discover and develop his thing and encourage him in it. It’s the encouraging part that takes the most effort I think.

Let’s say, for example, that Joshua’s thing is playing the piano. I don’t own a piano. I once learned to play “The Entertainer,” but I don’t go much beyond that. I don’t even listen to music in the car – I do my thing, which is sports talk radio. But part of my job, as entrusted to me by my Father, is not just to allow Joshua to do his thing, but for me to learn about that thing. To be able to have an intelligent conversation about the piano. To invest emotionally in it.

That means that a part of my job is to be willing to put my thing on the back burner.

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  • Amy Wright says:

    The title cracked me up because it is so, so true.
    As we’ve been helping our boys find their “thing”, we have found that our least athletic son loves sports and our most athletic son loves piano. Go figure.

  • Steve says:

    Great post Michael.
    I’m convicted, and I’m not even a parent yet (technically). Today’s our due date though… so any day now!
    I think of our son’s room, and what’s the theme? Sailboats. Why? Because Daddy likes ships and sailing. Granted, an infant can’t express interests yet, but I can see how with that I’m already trying to influence what those interests will be. I’ll be very curious to see who he is and what he enjoys, and I’ll remember to encourage that.

  • MK says:

    Steve – Congrats, brother. What an enormous blessing and responsibility you have been entrusted with.

    It’s going to be great. Have fun.

  • Aaron Shaver says:

    Thank you for being honest about this topic, Michael. As a brand new dad, I can definetly see how easy it is to press upon our kids our own interests.

    Growing up, I was the son who liked to play sports…for fun. I was never a competetive type. And, even now I never watch sports, I am totally lost when it comes to fantasy leagues, and couldn’t name but 3 current NFL quarterbacks.

    Somehow, I fell in love with movies (and can quote cinema trivia for days) and stories and theatre. Which, by the way, is why I’m so excited about STORY 2010 in Chicago (congrats on having your work included in the program)!

    Now, if only I could afford two tickets to attend.

    Anyway, I appreciate you perspecitive on this and am now more aware of my own potential influence on my son.

  • MK says:

    I hope you make it up there, Aaron. I read on Arment’s blog that there are great deals on hotels in Chicago right now, but those are waning.

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