When my youngest daughter was six, she took her first dance class.
It was a ballet/tap combo on Tuesday nights (we called them “Tutu Tuesdays”), and I knew she loved it when she was sick one weekend and told me, “I have to get better by Tuesday so I can go to dance.”
At her recital that year, we watched her twirl and tap her way all over the stage, and she hasn’t stopped dancing since.
Dance—a dozen different styles, 10 months a year, both as a student and as a teacher—school band (percussion, including marching band drum line), and now school pom/dance team have been my high school daughter’s passions. Combined with a college-prep academic load, other student activities, and commitments to family, friends, and church, they've kept her busy.
Maybe too busy. She doesn't have much down time. She needs more sleep. She eats en route and at strange times several days a week. She almost always seems to be “on.”
But when I watch her do the things she loves, the craziness makes sense.
Doing what she loves makes my teen happy. Not all the time, of course—what in life makes anyone happy all the time? But my daughter's passions bring her joy. They light her up.
She wants to do her "things" even when she’s tired, stressed, and busy. I give my daughter a couple “I don’t want to go" free passes a year. But she rarely uses them.
She’s willing to give up lesser things. Other activities my daughter has liked (track, for instance) have gotten the ax, because as much as she enjoyed them, she's been more committed to things she loves.
She looks forward to doing what she loves. She talks about these pursuits excitedly. The thought of doing them mostly energizes her, rather than depletes her.
The things she loves reveal pieces of her heart. When I watch my daughter dance, I see pieces of her that are hidden the rest of the time. It’s not that she’s trying to conceal these parts of herself; it’s just that geometry class doesn’t do much to bring them out. Watching her pursue her passions is a privilege worth all the driving and tuition payments and dance costumes crammed into every square inch of available storage space in our house.
After my daughter’s recital a couple years ago, a friend in the audience who had never seen her dance before told me, “This is her joy. She should never stop.” I agreed. I saw her joy that night. As I had before. As I have many times since.
So, I’ll keep doing what I can to support this busy teenager of mine, within certain limits (she’s not the only member of our family with passions to pursue, after all). I’ll keep stocking the pantry with protein bars that double as dinner. I'll keep sacrificing closet space for dance costumes and pom uniforms. I’ll keep spending Friday nights in blazing sun and freezing cold and almost nothing in between.
I’ll keep doing these things because when your children find something they love that brings them joy and brings joy to others, and when what they love reveals deep pieces of who they are, the crazy is worth it.
They themselves are worth it.
A version of this article originally appeared on Your Teen For Parents.
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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year-old that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!