Growing up in my family, if you didn’t play soccer, there weren’t many extracurricular options for you. I was the last of six kids, and the five kids before me all played soccer. But I had absolutely no desire to play soccer (nor any athletic ability)—so this was a problem.
I really wanted to be a ballerina, but despite my <SARCASM>exquisite grace</SARCASM>, ballet lessons were too expensive (last of six, remember). I was told if I could find a class in the Parks & Rec catalog (except ballet), I could take it. So I scoured that catalog for hours. “Fruit stamp making? Uh… Shadow puppetry? No. Home brewing? Sounds great! Wait, I’m in 4th grade. Gymnastics! Yes, gymnastics!”
It was my new passion. My parents approved of the class, and my dad was supposed to sign me up for it. But… he forgot. Upon recognition of his mistake, he casually handed me a soda (reserved for special occasions) and a box of See’s candy and told me, “You’ll get over it.” (In case you haven’t noticed, 30 years later, I’m still bitter.)
My dad later encouraged me to try my hand at basketball. (I think it was the only class still open.) But my hoops journey ended in tears when the ball bounced off the rim and hit my knee (because I wasn’t fast enough to get out of the way), and the ref called me for “kicking.” I stormed off the court in absolute horror and shame. That was also the same basketball team where my dad, in an unprecedented amount of parental involvement, volunteered to be the assistant coach. (I’m guessing he got a discount on the class that way.) His shining moment of assistant coaching came when he told us kids, “Quiet down, kids. Listen to your coach.”
Not to be daunted (or coerced into soccer), I tried out for a couple of plays with Children’s Playhouse. I got a few (very) minor parts over those seasons and took ridiculous pictures in ridiculous costumes to document the entire experience. But since I had to hitch rides to rehearsals from my best friend’s mom and had to drag my parents to the final performance (that my five siblings would not attend was a given), my acting days soon ended as well. Sidenote: I still can sing the housekeeper’s song from Jack and the Beanstalk. Buy me a few drinks, and I’ll perform it for you.
Why am I telling you these woeful stories of my childhood? Mostly because it’s cheaper than therapy. But also because I have the opposite problem with my son Colin. I can’t find anything that the kid wants to do. I have asked him what he’s interested in. “Nothing,” he tells me. I have suggested soccer, basketball, dance, theater, golf, chess, art, you name it. “No, no, no, and no,” he tells me. I can get him to willingly attend a Lego camp during the summer so at least I know he has some sort of interest in something. But I feel like a crappy parent for not exposing him to more activities. (Erin, in contrast, is interested in so many things we need to prioritize so she’s not over-scheduled.)
I know, I know, he’s only in second grade. This is one of those times when I need to employ the Calm the Fuck Down (CTFD) parenting method. And for the most part I live and breathe that method. I just want the kid to have some interests—to find his passion. So I keep trying. I was driving Erin to piano lessons last week, and I asked Colin if he wanted to take any music lessons. Piano? Drums?
Colin: “Ummm, no. Music is not my thing.” (He loves to tell me that things are not his thing.)
Me: “Really? What about the accordion?” (Now I’m just fucking with him.)
Colin: “What’s an accordion?”
Erin proceeds to describe and pantomime what an accordion is. And she and I break out into an accordion-ish tune. (We might be each other’s biggest fans.)
Colin: “No. Not that either. But I do like desserts.”
Me: “Desserts?! Do you want to take a dessert making class? Or a cooking class?”
Me: “Then what do desserts have to do with classes?”
Colin: “They don’t. But I really like chocolate.”
Sigh… Fortunately, he can join the Lego Robotics club at his school in 2 years. I’ll just have another drink and CTFD until then.