Sunday, September 18, 2011

authenticity for parents : passing on interests

In medieval society people were born into their trades.  Dad John was a wheelwright so Son William was a wheelwright.  Part of the evolution into modern society brought an end to the strict adherence of this principle, so it may be difficult for some modern parents to understand how to take advantage of this in the recreation we do with our children.
Some of us have, in modern terms, very unusual hobbies that we practice specifically because of our involvement in a recreation group.  Given the total number of people you know at any level, how many of them would honestly like and enjoy taking up pewter casting?  How about making 16th century ruffle collars?  Let's face it- the hobbies we spend our time on are not your typical hobbies.  Yet they are great tools for expanding your child's horizons.

Now, I'm not saying that you should teach your children your hobbies and that will be that.  Far from it.  If they happen to really enjoy doing that particular craft, great.  If not, let it go.  The real priority here is to teach it to them so that, when they are adults they not only have an appreciation for the craftsmanship and beauty of medieval culture, they have a very real understanding of it.

Start young on this- pre-schoolers are infinitely fascinated by new things- but try to match the level of skill needed for success to the attention span of the child.  Most of the hobbies we do will require at least a grade-school level attention, but start your youngster off by constantly involving them (Anna, can you hand me that skein of wool?), reeling them in (Phillip, do you want to see how I can turn this piece of metal bright red?), and teaching them what you can in little bursts (Hey, Rachael, if I show you how to do a running stitch, do you think you could sew the hem of your dress?)

And, of course, encourage your child to excel at whatever craft he or she chooses to focus on.  If they decide to take on a different hobby than those you know, provide them with plenty of opportunities to teach you, so they feel that you are engaged.  If they would like to pursue a hobby that is more expensive (and you feel they are able to realistically take it on) work out a deal with them, just as you would in the modern world, to use chore money to pay for materials.

The hardest part, I think you'll find, is not passing on the "too many projects at the same time" trait that we have as adults.  Let's be realistic with ourselves, though, and realize that, in a hobby with so many hobbies included, that's a trait worth having.

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