Thursday, October 20, 2011

Miles on the Minivan

I stared at the blank page for twenty minutes. Little chance of any thoughts forming into articulate sentences, not with the pulsating music from the next room where Son #1 sat working on a new song.

He'd been at it for hours. Sigh. At least one of us was a writing wiz tonight.

He hasn't been a devoted musician all his life. He flirted with piano and guitar lessons when he was very young, but he soon grew tired of practicing and I grew tired of nagging. He abandoned the interest in music and moved on to other things, one after the other.

And so it goes with so many childhood activities.

Between my two sons, we dabbled in nearly every kind of lesson and organized activity on God's green and synthetic-floored earth. We tried music: piano, guitar, clarinet and choir. We played sport after sport: gymnastics, swimming, soccer, baseball, basketball, football, weightlifting and rowing. We ran through the endless gamut of school clubs, from Power of the Pen to Quizbowl. We gave art lessons a shot and took part in a dozen plays. We enrolled in weeks and weeks of summer camps, ranging from glass-blowing to horseback riding (which resulted in lots and lots of envy from their office-dwelling mother).

We exhausted every available creative, academic and athletic opportunity in which our children took a trifling interest--and exhausted the family minivan and its driver along the way. We filled our children's days with sidelines and structure, yet ensured they still found time to play with Legos, read Harry Potter and watch Star Wars.

We wanted them to learn the meaning of discipline and teamwork. We wanted them to exercise their body and their brains. We wanted them to grow up well-rounded.

But mostly we hoped, through their exploring the world around them, they would find something--that one special thing--that struck them straight in the heart. And we were compelled to help them discover it.

What if Beethoven never touched a piano? Or if Steve Jobs never sat down to a computer?

Even so, as we exposed our children to all these opportunities, we never knew what might stick for good. Who could really guess what might be a passing fancy, become a lifelong hobby or lead to a fruitful career?

It's difficult to categorize these two young adult sons of mine. At 20 and 22, they both have an interest in history and the Beatles (thank God). They each love a pick-up football game but enjoy an occasional theatrical production, as well. They did indeed grow up to be well-rounded.

But as far as that one special thing? That much is still proving to be a surprise.

My son who once far preferred making music to playing sports now rows in college; he talks of coaching. The son who spent most of his youth on the ballfield has recaptured a brief childhood interest in music and sits right now in the next room, perfecting a song on his keyboard.

Who knows where their lives will truly take them. Maybe further along these same tracks, or maybe down another. What's for certain is, if we'd labeled them and limited them early on, they wouldn't be enjoying the lives they have now.

And the beautiful strains of music from the next room tonight? Maybe not such a terrible distraction after all, for either of us.

Perhaps all those miles on that minivan, long since retired, were well worth it.

Did you follow your early childhood dreams or go another route? Are you raising the next Beethoven or Steve Jobs? Is your minivan worn out too?


  1. I always read and love all your blogs, but this one reminded me of all the work (and love) you have put into your sons, my grandsons. Just want to say Thank You Sherry! Mom/Grandma Glo

  2. Mom: And thank you, for sitting through all those games...

  3. When I was a kid, I was always glad the my parents never forced me into music lessons, like my friends' parents did.

    Now, I sure wish I had some kind of formal training. What I wouldn't give to be able to participate in music-making.

    I guess someone has to be on the other end, to listen and appreciate.

  4. Bluz: Agreed. I often look at that piano in my house and just sigh.

  5. I love this. Our kids are close in age. Isn't it wonderful to watch them evolve?

  6. You are just so adorable. Kudos to you for raising some well rounded boys. Did you happen to take notes or write a manual? I do have the two kids to continue raising.....I could use the help.

  7. Lisa: It is wonderful, frightening and inconceivable, all at once.

    Amanda: Oh, I could also give you loads of "What not to do" advice too. Still working my way through that...

  8. Love this post, Sherry. How wonderful of you to keep expanding their horizons along the way, and also to go with their ebbs and flows in such a supportive way.

    We desperately wanted to put more miles our minivan, but our kids dug in their heels and refused. Now, as adults, they're lamenting those decisions. "Why didn't you make me?" they often ask, to which we give a good laugh. We made our son play soccer --- he literally stood in the center of the field and refused, in protest, to move. For weeks. I'll spare you the rest of this list. ;-)

  9. Teri: Oh the frustration of taking the time to drag your son to practices and games, only to have him just stand there! Funny how we're either to blame for MAKING them do something or NOT making them do something. Sometimes we just can't win. All we can do is wait to see how they parent their own children.

  10. I wrote about this briefly in a post of my own ( Just what you want to be, you will be in the end), but I apparently never grew up.

    I was also pretty single-minded even as a kid. In second grade, I wanted to take horseback riding lessons and join Girl Scouts. My mom told me I could choose one or the other. I chose the horses (I know, rough childhood) and continued riding for years. I didn't really dabble in any other major extracurriculars (not counting band, because I never counted band) until high school.

    As far as writing goes? That's one dream I grabbed a hold of back in the 4th grade. Haven't let go yet.

  11. Bluz: It's never too late to learn. As an adult, I've often wanted to learn the cello. I haven't exactly taken any steps toward making that happen, but maybe one day.

    Teri: Your son is kind of my hero. I always hated team sports and never thought to just stand there and not move. Passive resistance!

  12. Laura: Somehow I missed that great post! Yes, I'm still very similar to the girl I was at 11. I wrote my first "book" when I was nine, and sold copies at school for ten cents. And I would have chosen the horses too, especially since I was kicked out of Girl Scouts...

  13. When you say minivan, do you mean people carrier? (Yes that is what they are called over here in Literally Land)

    Mine are still exploring many different things but I too hope they find a special one. And how thrilled is non musical me to see them reading music and playing violin (her) and guitar (him) Hope it lasts.

  14. Downith: When you're transporting your 12-year-old son and three of his friends from basketball camp, "animal carrier" may be more appropriate... And interesting how many of us seem to have latent musical ambitions! I figure living vicariously is lots easier than learning how to read music at my age.

  15. Same here, Sherry--ours are still wee enough to be considering their options for exploration. You know, like space travel or archeology (they have Saturday classes for those, don't they?)

    It is such a precious time--because with every discovered profession/talent comes a new dream. Today one wants to be a ballet dancer, tomorrow a rock star, the next day a veterinarian. I just love it.

  16. Don't have a minivan, but the side strips are peeling off my little Honda and it's sitting low in the water these days.

    When I was a kid, I wanted to tell stories and live in a library, so I'm close.

    My eight-year old wants to have a cupcake bakery that runs on the Fuddrucker's principle: She'll provide plain cupcakes in various flavors, and customers can choose fillings, toppings, etc. She's been planning this for two years, and it's the one dream she has that hasn't changed.

    The four-year old is just happy being a kid.

    Guess we'll see what happens. . .

  17. Erika: You're so right about the new dreams--that's half the fun of exploring! And if they offered Saturday classes in archaeology, am I too old to enroll?

    Sarah: wow, if I didn't have a zero balance in my savings account, I'd invest in that bakery in a second! Set her up in a mail-order business from home, and ship me a dozen chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese filling!

  18. What a terrific post, Sherry. I love these glimpses into your life as a parent.

    All three of my kids has one specific talent that we have tried to nurture. I believe each one of them has the capacity for truly great things, but what I want for them most is a rich, full life--whatever they decide to do with it.

  19. Averil: I do wish I kept a journal or wrote narrative nonfiction when my kids were young. What a way to capture their childhood in perpetuity! And I'm with you in waving that magic wand to ensure their lives are rich and full, as well as happy and healthy...

  20. I know what you mean. I'm envious of our friends with young children, who will have so much to help them remember these years. My memories are all in photographs. I cherish them, of course, but I wish I'd realized how much we forget as the years go on.

  21. Averil: I've seen your pictures. Excuse the cliche', but they are indeed worth a thousand words.

  22. What a great mom. To push them to try, and not push them to keep at it, going by their lead...if you give lessons on this, count me in!

  23. Lyra: I can't give you lessons on that (because I did indeed push until I got tired of pushing), but I can give you lessons on how to be three places at once...