Honoring Your Child’s Talent (Even if It Bores You to Tears)

Benjamin's talent for lego constructionI finally understand those parents who point to their child’s tacky painting and proclaim it a work of staggering genius.

Don’t get me wrong. I mistrust those parents instinctively, but I get the emotion all the same.

Put my son Benjamin in front of a box full of Legos and he builds large, sweeping structures with a rhythm that belies his age. It’s like he’s found his muse, his talent, at a very early age. He’s the same when given crayons and paper. He seems to have a plan before he puts the first colored mark down. He knows when he’s finished, something many artists wrestle with, young or old, and he’s far more sophisticated in his imagery than our oldest child was at that same age.

I couldn’t be happier. I studied art in college and would love to relive that part of my past through Benjamin’s pudgy fingers.

My other son, Elijah, is less enthralled with blank sheets of paper and Legos. He’ll dabble in each, but he’d rather be outside hunting for “worm pets” or digging a hole to China (an impossible chore which gets passed down from one generation to the next).

Both activities leave me cold. I generally avoid them by offering him something else – wanna learn how to throw a football, son? My boys are still young, and I can cut a corner or two in the fatherhood department. That won’t last long.

What if Elijah wants to take up the cello, and all I can think of is hearing bad orchestral music echoing in our home? What if Benjamin abandons art for soccer, a sport that makes my teeth hurt? My sons are destined to follow their innate talent wherever it leads them, even if it means spending countless hours outside my own interests.

A child’s talent should be respected and nurtured, not treated like an inconvenience.

A few years ago I found work writing real estate stories for a major metropolitan newspaper. I made my deadlines but my stories lacked the zip of my entertainment articles – where my true passions lie.

I hope I can let my children follow their talents wherever they lead. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a hidden appreciation for worm wrangling.


  1. beth trapani says

    Great post… And, so often what interests them at 3, 4, 5 is not at all what they’re interested in 6 months later, let alone a decade later. It’s all about exploration! And, having a parent who’s patient enough to indulge all of that!

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