Early on in our relationship, Bart commented on something I’d sort of taken for granted about my parents. “They’re so interested in the thing things you do,” he told me. “They ask questions about your projects, they go to all your events, they know what you’re involved in.”
My parents had no exposure to Forensics (the speech and debate type, not the blood and gore in a lab type), but when I joined the team (at my mom’s prompting), they came along to nearly every competition and judged (having judges was part of my grade). They would talk about which events they liked judging best, which students were particularly good, which ones they were kind of unimpressed by. They would come to the award ceremonies, even if I wasn’t winning anything. They told all their friends about the “one-clap” rule.
I remember clearly my mom attending a dress rehearsal of The Little Prince (I was the prince, complete with Barbara Bush wig), because it looked like she’d be in Salt Lake with Shepard for radiation when the show actually ran. Looking back, I realize how much she must have had on her mind – she was going to be missing Christmas, the radiation probably was going to leave Shepard permanently somewhat mentally incapacitated, she’d be away from her home, her other four children, and her husband for weeks at a time, at a new hospital – and yet she sat through two hours of a (I’ll be the first to admit, somewhat slow) high school dress rehearsal. She was interested in what I was doing. Even when the rest of life was crazy. (At the last minute, the doctors decided to hold off on radiation and try one last round of chemo, so my mom and Shepard didn’t go to Salt Lake).
They’re like that for my other siblings too. They go to Merrick‘s art shows, they drive to Utah to see the shows that Landen does the costume design for. They attend every last lacrosse and soccer game or swim meet that Crawford participates in. They make us feel important. They make us feel interesting.
That isn’t to say they are helicopter parents or that they don’t give us our space. For all of us, these are our own hobbies or talents, things we pursue, to a large degree, on our own. But they are always interested, always in attendance, always quick to encourage and support and cheer us on in person.
Since Bart has mentioned this, I’ve thought back to many of my friends whose parents loved them, of course, but seemed to have no real interest in their pursuits. They never came to their sporting events or theater performances or forensic tournaments. They hardly seemed to even know their children were involved in these things.
I think one of the best part about this trait of my parents is that because they’ve been so interested in our hobbies, our pursuits, our educations, we are willing to be interested in what they love or find fascinating.
When my dad sat us all down to watch a five minute clip from From the Earth to the Moon, we all paid attention. I went on to watch every episode (multiple times), some with him, some without him. When he has a place he wants to visit, or a tape to have us listen to, or a family project to work on, we’re generally all in.
My mom liked to visit model homes when we were growing up. I think all three of us girls learned to really enjoy this, picking out what rooms would be ours, or where we’d put our doll funiture. When my mom passes along a book that she’s enjoyed, we’ll read it. When she wants to visit a store or try a new project or take a cake decorating class, we jump onboard.
If there is anything I can do as a parent, if there is anything Bart and I are determined to do, it’s to let our kids know that we are interested in their lives, even when their interests are in areas we have previously had zero interest or affinity for. And, with any luck, they’ll learn to love what we love too.