Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Doing Their Own Thing (What You Wanted Them to Do in the First Place)

It's a tough balancing act, this line caregivers walk when trying to steer kids in the right direction.  I made the mistake of pushing a bit too far with my older daughter, a musical whiz who can proficiently teach herself any instrument of her choice.  That's the problem with gifted and talented children- it has to be of their choosing and it generally, from my experience, has to feel natural, like it's their thing.  Once there is interference, no matter how well-meaning, kids lose interest.  It's a classic case of reverse psychology through oppositional defiance-- kids are turned-off by anything their caregivers deem to be remotely hip, because they're trying to find their unique Self.

It reminds me of this old Sesame Street video where viewers have to pick the one kid who is doing his "own thing".

For Julia, my 14-year-old, I hired a classically trained concert pianist/composer who hailed from Romania to provide lessons.  As a mother, I know what the kid is capable of achieving... greatness, of course! But I failed to understand that Julia has her own style of learning and of creative inspiration that have little to do with strict teachers telling her that her scales are sloppy.  I actually, for a brief moment, thought that hiring this type of person was better than Julia free-wheeling music in her own creative, fun, and interpretive manner that results in a unique sound all her own.  I was mistaken.

According to school testing and learning metrics, my younger daughter, Angelina, prefers to operate using logic, reasoning, and organization.  She categorizes and sequences, attempting to make sense of the world around her.  So naturally, her scores in Maths and Sciences are high.  Even as a talented artist and writer, her pieces have a sense of precision.

Since we are a household of musical geeks who love technology and nature, she wanted to do something that seemed to gel well with the rest of us and declared last year, "I want to be a florist and have a shop in Manhattan.  I will have to study art and botany in college."  Learning from my early mistakes with Julia (sorry Julzie, the first kid is always the guinea pig... but, you're fine! Right? Mommy learned and from this point on, I will not stand in the way of your liberation from expectations!), I backed-off and let her sit with that idea, telling her that being a florist is a fine profession.

Secretly, I wished she would pursue a career in science.

Ang also watches a lot of YouTube- mostly popular and goofy bits.  Recently, on several occasions, I have noticed she is immersed in watching neuroscience videos that are about ten minutes in length.  She literally sits glued to the computer, watching video after video about how the brain works, for hours.  I am careful not to comment and say something like, "You're a GENIUS! I mean, what 10-year-old wants to watch these videos?  Furthermore, what 10-year-old understands these videos? Do you want to go to science camp? I will totally send you to science camp!"

It is with all my might that I restrain myself.

Last night, Angelina said, "I don't know what I want to do when I grow-up." I told her that she had a while to figure that out and shouldn't worry, and that she should do whatever it is she enjoys.  She said, "Well, I don't think I want to be a florist anymore."  So, I said that was fine and she continued, "I would like to study science, I think.  I'm really interested in the brain and how the brain works.  Like when why we see optical illusions and stuff like that."

I told her neuroscience is a fine profession.