I was at play gym rolling a ball back and forth with my son, when a little guy with yellow ringlets and puffy checks stormed through the door and ran right up to me.
Excitedly he cheered, “Mih-ing bow!!!”
Trying to make out his words, I repeated, “Me elbow?”
“Mih-ing bow!” He said again with more emphasis.
Still unsure if I understood him correctly I asked him again, “Your elbow?”
His mom translated, “Mixing Bowl.”
“Ah! Of course, Mixing Bowl,” I said to the little guy.
His mom explained in a beautiful British accent, “All he wants to do is cook, cook, cook! And he loves baking. All day he runs around saying, ‘Mixing Bowl!’ ‘Mixing Bowl!’” She continued, “Cooking is this intense passion of his. He takes it very seriously.” Not spoken, but understood—he was destined to be a chef.
I joked, “Well, that’s fantastic for you!” As I pictured the twenty-month old whipping up omelets and pancakes on a Sunday morning while his parents lounged around reading the New York Times.
And then it hit me!
Do we discover our passions as early as infancy or toddlerhood? And is it basically up to our parents to pick up on what these passions are so they can encourage and foster them so that we’ll actually get a chance to go after what it is in life that we love doing?
I thought of all the people I know who love what they do. Their careers all started young. There’s Laura whose bio reads that her passion to be around a mic and camera started at age three. She’s now a producer and heard on-air. I went to high school with Eli whose parents didn’t flinch when he asked for a fake-blood splattered cake at his Bar Mitzvah and told them that for the entertainment he wanted to be cut in half. He’s now a horror movie director working on films with Quentin. I hear stories like these all time. There’s the architect who as a kid was obsessed with toy models. And the teacher who was constantly passing out lesson plans to the siblings.
New grads hear the advice often, “Do what you love and you will be happy.”
Does knowing what we love come down to how clued in our parents are, and their willingness to encourage our interests.
I also hear the stories about those still searching for what it is that they love. There’s the guy who always wanted to be a musician, but whose parents encouraged him to be a lawyer. There’s the woman who wanted to play basketball, but whose parents signed her up for piano. People with stories like these end up feeling off track. It makes me sad because it appears they were once on track, but for whatever reason steered towards a different direction. Their folk’s direction.
As parents, my husband and I are watching what our son loves right now. And we will continue to keep an eye out for what he gravitates towards and will do our best to encourage him to do what he loves. At every chance we get, we tell him to dream big, and to always believe in himself. We tell him that he can be anything he wants to be. Except for a football player of course. That would be too dangerous.