Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

Finding a calling

"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay." As we drove home she continued to ponder her indifference: "I think it would be kind of cool to be like one of those kids on Glee," she relayed. "But I guess I'm really just not that in to drama."

For my daughter, this kind of "okay-ness" isn't an anomaly. Tennis lessons have been okay. Pottery camp was no more than mildly enjoyable. Horse camp was fine -- except for the horse part.

None of my daughter's dispassion has been the fault of her coaches or counselors. We have been very fortunate to experience more than our fair share of top-notch youth programming in town. But after summers of trying sports camps, swim team, sailing and more, my daughter and her 14-year-old brother have yet to find an activity that really floats their boats.

Now don't get me wrong; it's not that they don't enjoy doing anything. It's more that their interests tend to fall in the camp of things that don't have a summer camp built around them.

My son, for instance, could play Xbox football 27/7 if I'd let him. But going outside to play real football in the park with his buddies? Not so much. So the deal we struck this summer was that if he signed up for a Shakespeare program that has him out of the house doing something (his mother feels is) engaging from 9 to noon everyday, I wouldn't nudge him about how he spends the afternoon. So far, it's working out okay. And who knows, maybe this mash-up of activities will inspire him to do something productive, like write a gridiron-influenced play. "Much Ado About Madden" certainly has a nice ring to it.

And, while based on this year's drama camp experience, it's unlikely she will become the next Meryl Streep, my daughter is not without discernible talent. She is truly gifted, I've discovered this summer, when it comes to polishing her own nails. I think she has given herself a different manicure and pedicure nearly every day this month. She painted ten little well executed flags on her fingers for Independence Day and is now sporting a Galaxy theme (glittery planets, moons and stars) on each of her toes. She is currently working on mastering a reverse French manicure with the same ferocity as an elite diver might work on her inward three and a half-- you could say she's a nail-art ninja.

Truth be told, though, it's not just my daughter who is envious of her friends who have found their passion. I, too, get subtle pangs of envy when I hear of yet another kid who has found their bliss doing something that seems to be practical and summer-camp worthy. So I asked my daughter on that ride home last week what she planned on doing for the rest of her summer, and every summer henceforth, since she hasn't yet stumbled upon a single program that she wants to sign up for again.

"Mom," she said, "maybe it's time for me to be done with camp. I can always go up and down University Avenue and see if any of the nail salons need a a junior intern."

You have to appreciate her pre-professional drive.

So whenever I scroll through my Facebook feed and feel that little green monster creeping up upon seeing another one of my friends' kid's well-deserved accomplishments, I'll need to remind myself that not every kid is destined to be a championship quality (non-video game) athlete or a singer, dancer or musician. Virtual football and expert manicure skills are talents in their own right. And hopefully someday they'll come up with a Mommy camp that can help train me to be "okay" with that.

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