I remember a few years ago, I had a conversation with a friend who was a worship leader at a local church. We were talking through resources and books recently read. He had mentioned to me a book about curating worship. I was intrigued by the title as I had really only heard that term used of museums and art shows prior to that conversation.
The dictionary defines “curate” as, “to take charge of (a museum) or organize (an art exhibit)” or “to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation, as music or website content.” My interpretation was always that it had more to do with strategic organizing, organizing for a purpose.
I don’t think I had thought about the word until the other day when my wife and I were having a conversation and I said something to her about parents curating experiences for their children. That passing statement implanted itself in my brain and I’ve been mulling it over since.
I’ve rarely met a parent who hasn’t, in some way, wanted their own children to have either identical or completely different experiences than they had as children. Parents can often get incredibly nostalgic about their own childhood experiences, almost to the point of obsession, thinking that the only way their children can experience something is in the exact same way that they did.
At the same time, there are plenty of parents whose childhood experiences were such that they want to do anything and everything possible to ensure that their children don’t have to have that same experience themselves. While they may not necessarily have been traumatized by their experience, they know that they want better for their own children than they had themselves.
I have to admit that my approach has been similar, at least in the area of wanting my kids to experience better than I did at their age. But in the midst of doing my best to ensure that, I’ve come to realize that, just like food, organic is better than processed, and experiences that happen are so much better for my kids than experiences that are forced.
I’m learning that presence and availability matters so much more. I’ve been on enough trips with my kids, given them enough gifts, to know that setting my expectations high about their reactions can lead to disappointment and frustration. How many of us have given our three year old child a present at Christmas thinking they’ll be so excited, only to have them playing with the box the present came in fifteen minutes later?
Instead of trying to force my kids to experience things the same way that I did, maybe it’s just about offering suggestions and letting them decide for themselves. While my kids share certain personality traits of my wife and I, they are their own people. They are becoming who they are becoming. Sure, I want them to carry on a legacy of sorts, but I don’t want them to feel forced to do it the way that I do it. Forcing that on them won’t result in joy in the journey at all.
When you have friends whose kids are older than yours, you hear the endless comments about how time flies and how they blinked and their kids went from pre-school to high school. I get it, I’m listening.
So, I’m trying my best to be present. They want to throw the baseball or softball? I’m here. They want to show me the latest trick on the skateboard? I’m here. They want to talk about what happened at school that day? I’m here. Instead of forcing the experience, I want to be there for it, whatever it is, and then be available to respond to that experience.
I spoke with a friend yesterday and we laughed over how much of a growing experience it is to see your own flaws in your children. It’s humbling at best and unnerving at worst. But it’s also freeing to realize that they are who they are and we have the opportunities to shape them, not by force, but through the investments that we make in them.
I’d love to be a curator of life for my children, not to force them to see things the way that I do or even experience exactly what I have experienced. Instead, I want to be available, like a tour guide, to respond to the inevitable questions, do my best to steer them when I can, and support and encourage them along the journey.