What makes you tick? Do you share any passions with your children? One of the many things I love about being a mother of teenagers is discovering shared interests that help to cement our relationship as adults and as a family.
As parents we are all guilty of enrolling our children from an early age in a multitude of clubs under the guise that it will be “good for them”, whilst waiting quietly in the wings to see which ones stick and if we have a child prodigy on our hands – oh if only!
Those early day activities do have a role to play but the real moment of discovery comes with the secondary parenting stage when our children cast off the shackles of stage one parenting and start to own and nurture their own interests in a grab for independence of mind and spirit. It is a moment of childhood metamorphosis.
It is wonderful to see them hit on something that ignites a spark and for which they truly develop not just a liking but a passion. It is even better, however, if that something also interests you and will therefore connect you as individuals with a shared interest, rather than simply as a parent and child.
Of course with a boy and a girl in the house it is natural to assume the father will do all the boy stuff and the mother all the girl stuff, but that is an outdated viewpoint and certainly not the case in our house. I would be lying, however, if I said my eldest teenager’s passions for rugby and cricket ignite a spark in me, but nevertheless I am genuinely interested in what it means to him. So over the years that has meant standing in the back garden and helping out whilst he practises his passing (rugby) or bowling (cricket), turning up to support him when he is playing, trying to understand the rules and taking an interest in the detailed match analysis that always follows every game. Sport excites him and is a big part of him I cannot ignore if I am to understand and connect with him, although sports trivia and inside sporting jokes are clearly the preserve of my husband as are trips to watch live games or to play a round of golf.
Sport aside, on a more frivolous level we also love shopping together (yah!) a male in the house that loves to look good after a wasted decade spent trying to persuade my husband that clothes maketh the man and are not just a necessity for covering nudity, is a relief I cannot quite describe. My son has helped me to decide on many an outfit over the years and was my chosen shopping companion when buying my all important shoes for my 50th this year. My husband would say it is a shallow shared interest of course but I beg to differ.
Sadly my eldest does not share my passion for reading, the theatre or art. Over the years we have forced books upon both our teens but with our eldest it has been clear since primary that reading would always be a means to an end for him and not a pleasure. A Freddie Flintoff biography remains to this day his favourite read of all time – as an English graduate I have despaired! Similarly, with the theatre whilst we have enjoyed many a family excursion to national and local theatre, aside from a pantomine featuring the dance group Diversity after their success on Britain’s Got Talent, it really hasn’t flicked his switch but it doesn’t mean we have given up – it is just a case of finding a compromise sometimes and we have had a few wins amidst the fails War Horse, Le Cirque du Soleil to name a few.
These passions of mine are all the reserve of my shared interests with my youngest teen who devours books by the truckload, adores drama from the perspective of a spectator, performer and director and is very happy to wile away several hours with me at the RA , the Tate or our local art galleries and has even started her own mini art collection as a result.
Similarly with my daughter, however, despite our female connection she shares a fistful of interests with her father I can’t get close to. Sci-Fi for one, YouTubers with extraordinary names, the Marvel Universe and Gaming and as she reminded me only this morning, it was as a result of my husband spending hours at a time making up stories with her toys and shooting videos that ignited her love of filming.
It is impossible for everyone in a family to like all of the same things but to survive the next phase of parenting and beyond it is essential to have some areas of common ground. It is our areas of shared interest that give not only our family our identity but the relationships within it too. If I think about my relationship with my parents now in their 70’s, my mother’s absolute love is gardening and it is through her that I have developed my own interest. Growing up in Norfolk, outdoor coastal walks were a regular occurence and gave us the chance to come together as a family and this is something I still enjoy not only with my parents when I visit, but also in London with my own family, even if the views don’t involve the sea.
As a family we have clocked up some fabulous experiences together including our Super Saturday experience at the 2012 Olympics and an array of moments from travelling and exploring different countries and cultures, something again that my own parents engendered in me during my childhood. Comedy is also a shared passion and we all relish a night being entertained either from the comfort of our sofa or live at comedy clubs or the big venues with the likes of Michael McIntrye and Jack Whitehall – a new introduction for me by my teens in fact.
The truth is, however, it doesn’t even need to be complicated, some of our best moments together have been enjoying a wet and windy walk around the common or sitting around a table playing a card or board game (Scrabble brings out the worst in all of us) and binge watching on Eastenders or Come Dine With Me whilst waiting for my own culinary masterpiece to materialise (think Wendy of Butterflies fame – if you are old enough of course!)
Parenting teenagers is a distinctive journey and the value of shared interests is nowhere more apparent than at this stage – they will provide a multitude of unforgettable experiences and are ultimately the glue that will bind you together for the stage beyond.
What interests do you share with your children and as a family? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.