Two little things to be specific: my son and daughter. The two things in my life that matter most. Of the many jobs I have as a parent, helping to nurture their passions ranks high on the list. The challenge is in guiding them towards interests that have some redeeming value beyond being something that they purely find fun. Otherwise, their passion would be to watch TV and play video games most waking hours.
At a young age my daughter (the eldest) took an interest in learning to play piano. After much discussion we made the plunge and purchased an upright piano and found a local teacher who could take on a new student. A few years later my son joined in, thankfully allowing us to amortize the cost of the piano across two children, but also doubling the cost of the lessons.
It didn’t take long at all for the novelty to wear off.
As with any new skill as the difficulty level increases so does the need to practice, as does the whining and complaining. When you are a kid the concept that anything worth doing requires commitment is purely a ridiculous idea created by parents to torment their children.
But we have thick hides, selective hearing and iron wills. Our rule is: no practice, no dessert.
But as the weeks, months and years have gone by our children have slowly begun to realize a basic fact of life: practice makes people better. And the better they get, the more they enjoy the practice. Okay, who am I kidding. They still hate practice but getting them to do it takes less pestering than it used to. And these days, they even sit down at the piano and just play for the fun of it now and then.
Something else happens that is pretty cool too: when they play people think they are great, and their little egos get a lift. Best of all, the praise is not artificial–they are actually getting recognized for a talent that they earned. And little by little they are finding that music is more that hitting the right keys–they are finding that there is an artist inside them and music is an avenue for expressing themselves.
Sometimes it takes a push for us to not only find our thing, but to take hold of it, nurture it, and make it our own. And when we do dessert is so much sweeter.