My brother taught me to write my name when I was four years old. Even then I was a people pleaser, and I looked up to my big brother and knew he would steer me in the right direction, but what drove me the most to learn that skill was his assurance that one day people would want my autograph, so I needed to be prepared.
Of course, when my mother discovered my name scribbled along the edge of the back screen door, she wasn’t impressed in the least. I remember being crestfallen that she wasn’t proud of my new-found accomplishment, so I lied and said the boy next door had done it. After she washed my mouth out with soap for being untruthful, I decided to find less conspicuous places to leave my mark.
I often wondered, in later years, if that one small comment from my brother served as a subliminal message for me. It was years later before I discovered that I had a love for writing, and more years before I worked up the courage to submit anything for others to critique. But perhaps my brother’s encouragement planted a seed in my brain that simply waited for the right time to sprout. To date, I’ve not had a large number of people request my autograph, but it has happened a few times.
My point in relating this little story is to suggest that it is never too early to offer possibilities for our children to consider. It may seem silly to talk with very young children about career choices, but I think it is wise to let them explore as many outlets as we can in an effort to pique their interests. It doesn’t have to involve a lot of money or fancy equipment. Sometimes a box of craft supplies and a bit of our time is a great start. By letting our children express themselves with writing and drawing, and then talking with them about their creations, gives us some insight into their interests and hidden talents.
A case in point: My son takes piano lessons. It delights me to watch him read the music and then create the sound on the keyboard. My family is, for the most part, musically talented. But many of us play and sing by ear, and cannot read the music. At least, not well enough to count. But my son is adopted, so he did not inherit that particular skill from my line. What he does have is the ability to hit the right notes and maintain the correct beat. Neither of my girls took any interest in music lessons, and sometimes it’s a battle to enforce practice times with my son, but I know he enjoys the fact that he is learning to play, and I hope someday he has children of his own to encourage.
But I didn’t realize how his playing is affecting my granddaughter. She’s usually playing in the other room while he practices since he doesn’t care for an audience, but he’s still influencing her. Every once in a while she will ask if she can play the piano, so I pull the bench out for her, and she quietly plinks away for twenty minutes or so. She’s four years old, and the type who would much rather dance than play, but the other night, after half an hour or so of playing, she came to me and said, “I finished my song, Nana.”
She handed me a spiral notebook I had bought for her when I got my son’s school supplies. She had filled one entire page with scribbles, top to bottom, margin to margin. This was the ‘song’ she had been composing over the last several weeks. I let her know how proud I was of her for creating such a masterpiece, and hopefully hid my disappointment that it wasn’t a novel.
So if you have young children, please give them opportunities to explore and develop their intellect and motor skills. Any time they are using their hands, whether it’s holding a pencil, a paintbrush, or digging in the sand, they are growing and honing skills. And if you are a young person, don’t fear trying new ways to express yourself and explore new skills. Even if you find it’s something that doesn’t interest you currently, it may serve as the beginning of something that will grow inside of you and eventually bloom into an amazing talent.