As camp directors, my wife and I speak to a lot of parents. We speak to a lot of different kinds of parents. Among the many types of parents, there exists a type that, even though they mean for the best, they are misguided as to how they can best help their children make progress in the development of their talents. When I say misguided, I don't mean that I know how they should be raising their children better than they do. I mean that the type of support they give their children does not match the hopes and dreams they have for their children. In order to get to the end of a road we must, at some point, be on the road.
Many parents don't know what their hopes and dreams are or what they should be when it comes to encouraging their children in their talents. This, of course, is the first step. How can a parent know what to have their children pursue? Trumpet? Piano? Painting? Computer Programming? Video Game Testing? Violin? A good place to start is with the interests of the child. I believe that a child's interests are the seeds of talent. Although my son is progressing nicely on the cello, he is more interested in becoming a pilot than a cellist. Because we do music in our family, he has to play some kind of instrument. We feel it is part of his natural growth as a human just as computers are becoming. That does not mean that we don't encourage his airplane hopes and dreams. At first, we thought his hopes of becoming a pilot were nothing but childhood fantasies influenced by his airplane geek friend, but other interests have come and gone, and we are becoming increasingly more certain that the pilot dreams are here to stay. So how does a non-misguided parent encourage this? The answer is simple. Open the way, and provide the opportunities. He is still too young to fly, and we can't afford an airplane for him to ride in to be exposed to the real thing. But we provided a library card so he can devour book after book on the subject. We have visited many airplane museums. We have also purchased some books, and carefully allow him to do research on the internet. Luckily, he is still too young for flight school, but the day is quickly approaching. Our job is to open the way, and provide the opportunities, but does this mean that we have to take out a loan for the flight lessons? Maybe. Do we have to take on extra work, and slave day and night to pay for his and our other children's interests? Maybe. But I think opening the way is more than that. If children have desires and interests, we should let those desires and interests fuel the learning process.
How do we harness this fuel? We brainstorm with our children for ideas. We have faith, and we work. I have had hopes and dreams many times in my life, and when I expected them to happen, I was able to find a way to make them happen. As a violin geek in High School, I heard about an Itzhak Perlman Concert in Salt Lake City. Back then, Salt Lake seemed like a foreign country for a rural Idaho farm boy. I had no idea how I would get tickets, or afford tickets, or even get to Salt Lake. I just knew I wanted to go so I marked the date in my planner. Even though it seemed like an impossibility. Sometimes, just planning for something is enough, and this time it was. About a week before the concert I got home and found a message to call a guy named Phil. Phil who? I had a brother named Phil, but he was 23 years older than me, and I had know idea why he would want to talk to me. It turned out that he had tickets to the Itzhak Perlman concert, and was unable to attend. Not only did I get tickets, but they were free. My Dad agreed to loan me the car, and trusted me to take a girl who was my close friend with me. This is one example of how planning for things can work. Will all our problems be solved this easily? No. but I have no doubt that if we really want something, we can find a way, and that sometimes the way provides itself.
Flight school is expensive, but I know that if we talk together with our son, we will be able to find a way for him to go. He may have to mow lawns, move pipe, work in our violin shop, play his cello at weddings, bale out the septic tank, beg on the street, or do some other unpleasant task to raise the money, but if he wants it bad enough he will do it. That's the nice part. We can leave the hard work up to our children, and if they are not willing to do the hard work, then we know they don't want what's at the end of that road bad enough. The worst thing we can do is shut off their dreams by saying things like, "Son, there are only a handful of people who have ever become astronauts. What makes you think you can be one some day?" Or, "Son, we just can't afford flight school so you'll have to choose another dream." Or, "Son, we are simple folk, we don't have big dreams." So one of the biggest ways to open the way for our children is to get out of the way.
Finally, we have to provide the opportunities. My parents did their best to help me prepare for a life in