At a recent birthday party, my husband and I crossed paths with another mom and dad of three boys. And when I say crossed paths, I mean, literally, crossed paths as we darted around them chasing after our hooligans.
While our boys were wobbling aimlessly, digging through drawers and pulling down every single expensive decorative item within eyesight and arms’ length, we struck up a “we have three boys too” conversation with this couple.
They were about twelve parenting years ahead of us (in real years, that’s eighty-four) and their boys, of course, weren’t within miles of that party. They were off doing teenage boy things with other teenage boys and would return home, as teenage boys must, at some point before curfew.
This patient couple stood while we made figure eights around them, and the four of us exchanged words of admiration: “Wow, it must be nice to be able to go to a party with your kids!” (them) and “Wow, it must be nice to be able to go to a party without your kids!” (us) and glances of nostalgia (them) and longing (us).
When the twins stumbled, again, literally, upon a random box of jellybeans, we knew their discovery bought us a few minutes to exchange complete sentences without interruption.
The mom told us about her boys. Her eldest was headed to college in San Francisco next month. Her youngest just returned from a fun vacation in Mexico. But the good stuff came when we asked about her other (middle) son.
She told us that he was a skateboarder and, in fact, the reason why he wasn’t at this party was because he was out skateboarding with some friends. I was almost ready to dismiss it and go back to San Francisco, but this mom continued on, telling us all about the skateboarding—where he likes to go, when he likes to go, how much he loves it, etc. She described his favorite parks with such detail that it was almost as if he was standing right there telling us himself. But what was even more remarkable than what she said was how she said it. She was all smiles, bursting with pride, enthusiastically describing her son’s skateboarding passion.
For someone watching us across the room, she could have been describing her son: the gold medal Olympian or her son: the Academy Award nominated actor or her son: the Nobel Peace Prize winning scientist. That’s how brightly she beamed.
It was impressive.
Here her son had found something he truly loved. And because he loved it, she loved it, too. Because he was passionate about it, she was passionate about it, too. Because he found it so interesting, she found it interesting, too.
It didn’t really matter that it was skateboarding; it could have been anything. She was proud and excited to tell us about it because her son had found something he was proud of and excited to do.
It was a good lesson for me. She taught me how important it is that a child finds his or her something. And how lucky we, as parents, are when that happens and how obligated we are to encourage and foster that passion, whatever it is.
That is my hope for my boys. I hope they find their something. Whatever it is.
Be it a sport or dance or music or art or chess, it doesn’t matter to me. It just has to be something.
And when they find it, I promise I will stand on the sidelines, or in the audience, or in the background, and I will cheer. I will encourage. I will be proud of their something.
Whatever it is, I hope my kids find something to love with their whole hearts.
And because I love them with mine, I promise I will love it, too.
Just as long as they wear helmets.