My fourth daughter stopped me in our outdoor hallway on the way to pee.
“Mama, should I wear sporty clothes today? I mean, are we doing anything active today?”
I looked at her confused and said, “What do you mean by active?”
“You know, like running and jumping,” she said while acting out the actual movements in case I really didn’t understand.
“I don’t know. Why are you asking me? Let’s review something for a moment. I am the artistic parent and your father is the active parent. If it were up to me, and if the laws of biology and muscle atrophy did not apply, I would sit and create things all day and never move the lower part of my body. However, I canbe active although I am not naturally inclined like your dad. Your dad can be artistic like when he draws the ‘cylinder’ of the body or stick figures to show what joints are connected to what and he can sing great car karaoke, but let’s be real, I am the artsy one.”
She thinks for a moment and then yells downstairs, “DAD!!!! ARE WE DOING SOMETHING ACTIVE TODAY?”
Chris yells back, “YOU MEAN LIKE RUNNING OR JUMPING? OF COURSE SILLY!!! EVERY DAY!”
She looks at me, gives me a kiss, and changes to activewear.
It’s not that I am not an active person. I have played sports, run half-marathons, rock climbed, and hiked the West Coast Trail. It’s not my first choice. Any physical thing that I have done was to push my comfort zone.
There are seven people in my family with very different gifts to offer the world. In our house, we celebrate the gifts and contributions rather than focus on what’s missing.
I have two daughters that used to work side by side at the dining room table when they were little. One loved math practice and struggled with grammar and spelling. The other loved grammar and spelling practice and struggled with math. The one who struggled with math would get frustrated and compare herself to her sister.
I read her a story about this mama rabbit that had many bunny children who used their different talents to help the mama around the house.
I tell her in the end that the world doesn’t need to be full of mathematicians and engineers. We also need the poets and writers who tell stories like this.
From that moment on, I refused to associate their learning with anything other than joy. I would not focus on what they were “lacking.” Nope. My job would be to feed the passion.
When my eldest was interested in art history as a teenager, I pushed her to apply for the youth council of one of the largest art galleries in Canada. She collaborated with artists-in-residence, installations, and had the opportunity to ask curators questions about the latest exhibits. This led to her applying for a university program in Barcelona when she was 18 to study 20th Century Spanish artists.
And math? She quit math after Grade 10. But she worked for a small business and in a restaurant.
And grammar? She hated writing. She wrote her first essay ever in her first university course. She googled how to do it and taught herself. She averaged an ‘A’ in all her courses. I asked her why she loved writing now and she said it was because she loved the content she was writing about.
My son isn’t a proficient reader yet. He will tell you that he doesn’t practice his reading because he spends all his time drawing.
My daughter, who taught herself to read at 10 for the simple reason that she really wanted to read a book about Harriet Tubman, only wants to sew right now. I asked her if she was continuing doing questions from her math book. She looks at me with a know-it-all face, as if I didn’t get the memo, and says, “Mama, I have been doing math all week, trying to figure out how to make this bag!”
When they show an interest or passion or aptitude for a subject, we go full steam but I do provide a feast of possibilities for them to taste.
Today, the math and grammar sisters are still the same. One does Khan Academy math problems for fun and the other reads Dickens for fun.
What would the world look like if we did things we loved? What if we were allowed the time to discover the gifts we were meant to share with the world and have the opportunity to “make a living” sharing them?
- Copy the Holstee Manifesto.
- List your gifts. (Think of what people have appreciated about you.)
- Draw your gift.