Parenting With Passion

On an early spring afternoon, my seven year-old son and I poked along on our walk home from the afternoon school bus. We were busy, preoccupied as we sought out and shared the first crocus buds and daffodil cups of the season. We were enjoying our passion.

When my son was younger, I used to deplore my lack of interest in so many of the activities associated with ``mothering'' a child: playing board games; creating paper, glue, and glitter pictures; mixing, baking, forming, and decorating cookie gems; and ingeniously crafting realistic and slightly horrifying halloween costumes. I had an invisible job description dangling in front of me that nagged at and silently chastised me for not being an ``ideal'' mother to my children.

So occasionally, in fits of self-doubt, I would suggest a cookie-baking session. We'd buy the ingredients, pull out the decorating supplies, and set aside a few hours to accomplish our task. But, somehow, the dream was better than the result. I'd get distracted, want to read an article in a magazine, wish the cookies would cook faster, and, predictably, the kids would whine and pick on one another. I lacked the passion.

Now I have a new approach. I share my passions with my three children, and the synergy is electrifying. Unlike most parents, I look forward to taking my children, ages 7, 4, and six months, downtown to the museums. Whereas I could never find the energy to bake a batch of cookies, I have mastered putting on coats, folding the stroller, hunting for parking places, and negotiating myriad requests to buy a toy or a snack. With near-equal enthusiasm, I roam shopping malls to admire Christmas decorations, visit the zoo, and take bike rides or nature hikes with my children. These activities I enjoy, and because I do, they do also. I'm enthusiastic, engaged, and bursting with observations and insights.

My passion is infectious, and when we return home we disperse with a luxuriating sense of satisfaction - knowing we've shared a special moment together.

I've seen this with my husband, also. He can spend hours in the darkroom developing pictures with our seven-year-old or pouring over maps with our four-year-old, scouting out remote, enticing parts of the world. Even more remarkable, he turns long-distance car rides into escapades equal to a Tom Sawyer adventure.

Two years ago we planned a car trip to Wyoming. I despise car trips; he thrives on them. So we split up. I flew both ways, and our two children shared the drive/fly portions, each flying and driving one way.

You'd think they had crossed the country by covered wagon, to hear them talk about the trip. My son remembers every town and restaurant, the time they camped out, the silver-dollar pancakes, touring Mt. Rushmore, Jewel Cave, and making a phone call to me from a visitor's center.

Hour after hour as the pavement unrolled beneath the tires, my son and his father engaged in memorable dialogue. They had each other's undivided attention, and the constrictions of a confining car evaporated as the world and its limitless dreams expanded before them.

I've observed this same experience with my mother-in-law and her passion for quilting. When we visited her several years ago, she spent a day quietly crafting a lap quilt with my son. Although he was only 4, they found endless pleasure in arranging and rearranging patterned squares of cloth into a splash of contrasting colors.

I think of this almost as a lover's rendezvous. When two people first fall in love, the outside world is of secondary importance. The attention and devotion to the other person overwhelms everything else. The same is true when I share my passions with my children. I'm with them, they're with me, and everything else: Let it be.

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