I woke up to the sounds of YouTube videos in the background. I really wanted it to stop, but it didn’t. As I rolled over and came to, I heard the low baritone of my husband’s voice pointing out a variety of musical nuances that only a well trained ear or a complete music wonk would understand. As he flipped from video to video, explaining which artist influenced whom and when this band jammed together with these people on a bus, I came to this sudden realization… He was teaching his daughters a very important lesson about happiness and lifelong learning.
We love music. It’s all over our house. On any given day you’ll find my husband tinkering with an electronic instrument or playing around with a bass or electric guitar. Sometimes you’ll hear my kids making up musical songs with the combination of found household items and their voices. As for myself, I grew up playing classical flute for sometime and then found my niche in high school in the marching band and choir. But it’s bigger than jamming and playing music. In the moments I listened in on my husband sharing his knowledge of music history, I learned just how important it is to pursue and enjoy an interest devoid of the motivation to achieve status or accolade; to nurture your interests, talents, and abilities not to produce a product, but for the sheer enjoyment of the process itself.
Growing up on sports teams I heard coaches say, “You have to become a student of the game”. Although I loved sports, I can’t say that I pushed myself in this way, which might be the reason I only went but so far. Granted my “but so far” was a highly decorated three sport collegiate athlete, but I saw sports as a means to an end even as I coached. My desire to win was my motivation to learn everything I could about each sport. I was not a student of the game, I was a conqueror. Listening to my husband wonk out, made me a bit jealous. He was “a student of the game”, constantly learning about what he loved for the sheer enjoyment of knowing more. He was passionate about music for the intrinsic enjoyment of it and he was still very good at it.
When each of us becomes students of our various interests we are truly fulfilled. I encourage parents to take it one step further. When parents share our interests with our kids we are vulnerable and beautiful. We are modelling what lifelong learning is all about. The act of sharing inspires our children to pursue a similar interest or to be motivated to become lifelong learners for something that they’re passionate about. It’s not easy to be vulnerable especially when it involves something we are really passionate about. When we open up we are allowing another person to look at and scrutinize something that we may have taken decades to cultivate. Every time we show our kids a human part of us it strengthens our relationship with them. Here are a few tips when sharing your interests with your kids:
What can we teach our kids about pursuing happiness? The first step is to inspire your kids to be intrinsically motivated to continue learning about their interest. The second step is to model what that looks like. When individuals stop learning, we stagnate. But when we become students (not conquerors) of our life’s passions, we are happier, we experience setbacks and challenges more realistically, and we are intrinsically motivated to learn more, connect the dots, and to innovate. Fortunately for adults, much of our learning can be motivated by our own passions and interests. Sharing this with your children is one sure way to show them that learning never stops and that passion for life is something that adults have too.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.