for release Friday April 23, 2004
by Melodie Davis
Family Traits: Inherited or Learned?
A nurse friend has a daughter who has enrolled in nursing studies. A pastor’s daughter leads worship and everyone comments on what a natural she is in the pulpit. An elementary education teacher has a son following his footsteps. Doctors frequently beget doctors. My mother was a homemaker and while I was in high school that is basically what I thought I wanted to be (although I had a secret, barely named yearning to write.) I have a daughter who was an English major (like me) and wants to be a writer.
I keep telling my kids, why doesn’t one of you want to be something practical and employable, like a nurse?
But then, I never wanted to be something practical and employable like a nurse or teacher so how can I blame them if they are interested in things like writing, music, theater?
So are our skills and interests inherited?
As parents we are usually flattered and happy when our children are attracted to the same kind of work or hobbies we have (unless we don’t like our work). Some parents feel rejected when their kids turn down an offer to take over a family business or farm, or show no interest or skill in athletics, music, fishing, or whatever we push them to experience.
But each child should be allowed to choose, experience and try on new activities and interests. (Indeed, sometimes today the wise word is we need to help our kids focus or just try one activity or sport at a time, or the family is run ragged going to lessons, games and activities.) Sometimes children amaze us by choosing something completely different from family “tradition.”
I am frequently amused when people ask us where our daughters get their musical skills. I have always said, that is one thing they definitely did not pick up from us. I can only sing so so, and my husband would say he barely does that. While there were a few happy sing-a-longs at home or while traveling, I would say our girls’ musical interests were really birthed in children’s choir at church and at church music conferences, and then developed through music teachers in school and private lessons. While there may be some gifts that are natural (like being able to carry a tune, a good sense of pitch or rhythm), what’s more important it sticking to something long enough to become good. That takes hours of dedicated practice—every day—two, three and more hours a day at the college level.
In general, as parents we are indebted to a whole community of teachers, coaches, counselors, and informal mentors in the form of friends/teachers who may see or sense a gift or ability we parents were not able to see, and provide just the right spark or nudge for the child to grow in a new area. So while they may pick up some tendencies from us as parents, it is a joy to see them branch out into new areas, allowing us to experience a whole new world of interests.
So when we think about the gifts and legacies we pass on through our families, we should consider that the larger community also contributes to our families, and that means singles, too! What parent hasn’t been thankful for the extra attention and time a single adult was able to give to our children?
In the old days, parents frequently raised their children to follow their occupation.
However, in today’s world where technology is changing so fast and we probably can’t even imagine the kinds of jobs our children will have in the future, it is good to raise children with a wide exposure to many different kinds of people, jobs and opportunities: to live and think widely while teaching them basics like common sense, respect, and curiosity. These traits will help them find their own way in life.
For a free booklet for teens titled, “You Can Make the world Just a Little Better” write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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