Joys to notice and share

So many hard things are going on. We are suffering. Hope is low. Primary therapist told us to really dive into any joy that we experience, and use it as motivation to know it can happen again. This is dangerously close to resisting what is and clinging to what we don’t have, and we can try to toe the line. We need some cheer to keep going.

And, so, it is with great pleasure that we share a few joys!

We are, as are many childhood trauma survivors and average citizens alike, prone to all-or-none thinking. Even still, we do not subscribe to the notion that there are good people and bad people. There are people. Everyone has a context. Everyone makes choices. Because we are all human, we will for sure make some unhealthy and unwise choices. We will hurt others. Fact. Even then, we have more choices as regards apology, reparations, etc.

Even the people who hurt us we believe are humans who have a context and did not act necessarily because they are malicious people. They are people. Complex. Full of nuance. And probably they acted out of pain, confusion, and/or anger at their own experiences. That is context. That is being human. What they have not done is apologize or attempt to help us heal.

Raising children has been difficult because we have exerted so much effort to keep them safe in ways that we were not. That is a difficult balance for an all-or-none thinker. Before children–even before marriage–we underwent re-marital counseling in order to better understand each other and our future union. One of our counselors told us that the primary reason he was counseling couples on the brink of divorce was their family’s separation necessitated by multiple children’s involvement in traveling athletics!

This was a real eye-opener for us. We both played sports as children, and one of us played traveling sports. We both agreed that being together as a family as much as possible, especially at mealtimes, would be a priority. Therefore, we decided our children would not play traveling sports. We told the children this when they were young and included the reason–we always included the reasons for our parenting choices.

To our fortune as a family, neither child appeared born with exceptional gifts or passion for an organized team or individual sport. We introduced them to many sports and encouraged and supported them in local recreational leagues so that they could get exercise, make friends, learn rules, develop physically, practice teamwork, experience successes and failures, etc.

We also decided we would not force the children into any extracurricular activities, especially not activities we liked as children. We did not want to create vicarious versions of ourselves. And, so, we got to experience our children’s natural trending toward what they were interested in and away from what they were not interested in.

Despite living in the North Land, neither enjoyed ice sports. Interestingly, both excelled enough at non-sports activities that there has been some infrequent travel, though usually as a family and sometimes the child has gone alone. Both of these have been wonderful growth experiences for us all. Band trips helped prepare Older Child to leave for college. Theater camp will likely prove the same for Younger Child, whose camp took place at a university.

Spouse and we are finding these activities quite enjoyable, as we may have if the children were more involved in athletics. We are not knocking athletics in general or saying your kids should not be in traveling sports. We perceive an overemphasis in Western societies on competition and athletic specialization that are not the right fit for our values.

While the bands and theater experiences are competitive to join, there is always a band to fit their level and a part in the performance or technical crew. That is, the child can participate no matter their perceived skill level, as is often the case with sports. And the performances for which they practice musical instruments and lines from scripts are themselves remarkable collaborations! Instead of competing with another team or individual head-on for the “championship,” they work together to create beautiful music and artful performances.

We believe these experiences have really helped to shape our children into empathetic, active, and concerned citizens. And they still like spectating at sports and playing recreationally with friends. Older Child is going to play in an intramural league starting in January for a sport he learned to play in the driveway with the neighbors over the years.

These developments make us happy. And if that were not enough, listen to their holiday wish lists and their current vocational interests:

For the holidays, the theater child has requested tickets to any performance of anything, anywhere! We bought Younger Child and Spouse tickets for a performance based on a novel Younger Child read recently in school. We cannot wait for the gift unwrapping!

Older Child’s holiday wish list is that we donate money to two specific charities involved in natural conservation work. There are donor levels that allow you to receive a publication from the organization, and Older Child wants to contribute to that level in order to learn more about conservation. Um, you want to help preserve wild places and things and learn more as your holiday present? Done!!!

We are very pleased at the values exhibited by these children. We and Spouse played roles in their development. That feels rewarding and exciting.

It will come as no surprise that Older Child intends to work in wildlife conservation in some capacity. This intention has been reinforced after the first college courses have been successfully completed. This is Older Child’s passion and mission, and we could not be prouder.

Among Younger Child’s theatrical endeavors is a school class that pairs mainstream students with students of special need in a “buddy system” for putting on a play. This is Younger Child’s third time taking this class, and Younger Child’s multi-year involvement with students of unique abilities and needs has resulted in a career interest in supporting the development of this population at the preschool and/or primary school age. This matches Younger Child’s kindness and ability to see the inherent worth of every person. As parents, we could not be prouder.

We hope you have enjoyed hearing about these young people and their pursuits and passions. It gives us great pleasure to write about how grounded and caring they are. No matter what they choose to do with their time as adults, we are confident they will make long-term choices that meet their carefully considered value systems. That we played a role in their development and as part of a loving, supportive family provides hope that we can perceive the present and future as safer than the past.

Joyful! Joyful! Joyful!

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