7 things I’ve learned about cultivating my kids’ passions
It is very interesting how we as mothers want certain things for our kids and expects them to want the same. I started my oldest daughter, Karmyn, in competitive cheer six years ago. I literally walked in, signed her up and she was practicing that day. She was only six-years-old and the thought of her being a cheerleader gave me great joy.
Over the years, I watched her skills improve and she transformed into an awesome cheerleader, right before my very eyes. I knew she didn’t love cheer. But, I loved it for her. I cheered for years, (not competitively) and I was living vicariously through Karmyn. I was the ultimate cheer mom. I drove her back and forth from practice and privates, three times a week, I was at every home competition, every away competition; I had the blinged out shirts and I even had a “Cheer Mom” pendant. I loved the cheer life.
As for Karmyn, she cried when it was time to go to practice. Cheer did not excite her. Even though she transformed into a star while performing, after a competition she was back to not wanting to practice. I just didn’t understand what her problem was. Why wasn’t she pushing herself? I spent all my time pushing her, having multiple “get your act together” talks and “you can do anything” speeches. I bribed her to gain skills and threatened to pull her from cheer if she didn’t improve.
My ultimatums didn’t light a fire under Karmyn, her love for cheer did not grow. She didn’t magically start wanting to go to practice. So, what do I do? Do I try to make her quit? To please me, year after year, she told me she didn’t want to quit and she loved cheer. No, I loved cheer for her.
My second oldest, Kimora, had mentioned being a cheerleader a few times and would light up at the thought of cheering. At the time, I didn’t want to take on two kids in competitive cheer. It was hard enough meeting the competitive demands with one child. Plus, I pegged Kimora to be the soccer/basketball athlete. I’m not sure why, but I just did. I played soccer for many years and guess what? Kimora was going to play soccer, too. I immediately put her on a team. It was cute the first year, but during the second year she started acting like Karmyn. The difference between Karmyn and Kimora is that Kimora told me over and over that she didn’t like soccer. I continually ignored her; I hoped that she would grow to love soccer. So, I would bribe her and push her, every week.
It could not happen. The soccer love was non-existent.
Kimora’s third year playing was such a struggle. She cried before practice and was less-than-thrilled about playing in her games. As her mother, I started to think where I went wrong and if I just have lazy kids. I have a daughter who is not passionate about cheer and another daughter who despises soccer, (I am totally winning in the extra-curricular activities department right now).
My third daughter, Kennedi, was in ballet. You guessed it, I danced as a child, so one of my girls had to be a dancer. She did not complain about going to ballet, (probably because it was only once a week). However, she couldn’t hold still one bit during class. It drove me bananas! Kennedi always wanted to go to Kimora’s soccer games to watch and she would kick the ball up and down the field, all game. She would get my attention to watch, but I was too busy forcing Kimora to want to play in her own game.
Last year, we were at a crossroads. The end of the cheer season came and I asked Karmyn, (like I did every year) if she wanted to continue cheering. Her initial response was yes, but I prepared myself for her change of heart. It finally happened. The day before her first practice of the new season, she said:
“Mommy, I thought about it for so long and I’ve decided I don’t want to cheer anymore.”
I knew this was coming. To be honest, I was relieved. It was like a dark cloud had been lifted from both of us. I was happy that Karmyn realized cheer wasn’t for her, but I just needed for her to come to that conclusion herself. I no longer wanted the constant battle with her, and you know what, I was at peace.
Karmyn decided to start dance classes, Kimora quit soccer and started basketball, and Kennedi left ballet to start tap.
Here is where parenting is a trip and sometimes comes full circle. Having had multiple children, I have multiple lessons to learn and multiple times to get parenting right.
Kennedi asked to play soccer this season and even though I wished Kimora would go back, I signed Kennedi up.
Kennedi is a star! I am blown away by Kennedi’s soccer skills. Having never played soccer before, she has scored more goals that I can count, she has the skill level of someone who has played for a few years and I have never seen her more passionate about something. People come up to me every game and tell me how amazing she is. She lives and breathes soccer. She said she wants to play in college. She begs to practice and she lives for the games! I have watched her take a ball to the chest, getting the wind knocked out of her and she went back into the game two minutes later. Watching her play gives me the chills, she’s so good. If only I would have listened to her a couple years ago. If I had only started her in soccer earlier, instead of what I wanted for her…
Kimora has been taking tumbling for a few weeks at Karmyn’s old gym. This was just for something to do, until basketball season starts. A coach saw her tumbling and asked her to become a competitive cheerleader. Now, Kimora is a cheerleader!
Well, what do ya know?
I have never seen Kimora more excited to do something. She tried out, made the team and she literally called everyone in the family to celebrate. She loves going to practice and is eager to improve. Her first showcase is this weekend and she is over the moon. If only I would have listened to her many years ago and started her in cheer, like she wanted.
I have learned such valuable parenting lessons throughout this entire process:
- My kids are all individuals; what I want for them, may not be what they
- Let them try everything. I was keeping them in a box by only allowing them to do what I wanted them to do.
- Look what they’re passionate about and run with it. When they show any ounce of passion for anything, pay attention.
- Support them in everything they do, no matter what. Even if it is not something you’d like them to be doing, encourage them to be the best.
- When kids are young, they won’t know what they truly like. There are cases when kids are born to do a certain thing, but some don’t figure out what their passion is until they are older. Therefore, it is okay to put them in activities that you prefer, but as soon as they express an interest in something else, be prepared to switch gears.
- Do not have a preconceived notion of what kind of child you think you have, (the “athlete,” the “dancer,” the “singer…”). That didn’t quite work out for me, being that I went wrong with each one, ha!
- For parents, it is okay if you get it wrong the first time, there is always time to get it right.
It only took me 6 years with three kids to get it right… but I did!