“Letting children ‘live their lives’ isn’t about releasing them into the wild or abandoning them . . . It’s about acknowledging that children aren’t repositories for their parents’ ambitions or projects for their parents to perfect. They are separate and capable with their own tastes, pleasures, and experiences of the world.” –Pamela Druckerman, Bringing Up Bébé
Violin. Horseback-riding. Art. LEGO-building. Marine biology. Karate. And now we can add chess to the ongoing list of activities, hobbies, and avocations I know nothing about, have zero talent in, and have not even the remotest desire to master.
These are the territories of my children. They are not and never will be mine.
Of course, it would be disingenuous of me to say that as an English teacher I didn’t harbor hopes that my children would love reading, writing, going to the theater. Of course I did–and do. But what has always been most interesting–if not affirming–is watching what they discover and what they gravitate to on their own.
And what they choose to stick with–not because their parents participate along with them, or because they sense they’re living out an unrealized dream from their parents’ youth (or even their adulthood) but because they have chosen freely, following their own hearts, talents, and desires.
Pamela Druckerman, the author of Bringing up Bébé, touts this as an integral tenet of French parenting. And perhaps it is. But if offering children a measure of autonomy is an inherently French philosophy, then there is something about the power of choice that resonates as particularly American.
Parents from all cultures have much to learn from one another–but ultimately as we witness how our children respond to our parenting, it is clear that the most profound lessons come from the independent, free-thinking human beings we are privileged to raise. Some might eat leeks for lunch and others chicken nuggets, but children–no matter where they are raised–are always their parents’ wisest teachers.