How my son inspired me to pursue my passion.
“Mom! Let’s play some music!” my almost-five-year-old son, Max, hollers.
He hands me a small pair of cymbals while he takes a seat at his junior drum set. “You can sing,” he says, pointing me towards the new red microphone he received for Christmas.
“Really? Okay,” I say, grabbing the microphone. Usually, he hands me the small brass-toned cymbals or a harmonica—making me a barely audible accompaniment to the roar of his drums.
“Let’s see what song is next,” he says, glancing over my shoulder at an imaginary set list pinned on the wall behind me. “Back in Black!” he decides. He counts off to four, and then he starts hitting his drums, surprisingly rhythmically. I squeal into the microphone, realizing quickly that I don’t know any of the words. For a few moments, I actually lose myself; one of my favorite parts of parenting small children is the lack of self-consciousness I feel. I’m smack in the middle of a no-judgment zone, and I get to live out an adolescent rock and roll fantasy. Even if I don’t know the words and am rocking out in the basement with my preschooler. It’s still fun.
Max loves music. From AC/DC to Barney, music is his thing. When he was a colicky, red-faced infant, we used to play a Gary Jules song for him. I twirled around with Max perched on my shoulder, his tense body softening. Every time the song came on, he got this faraway look in his eyes, and his tears stopped. If you remember the Seinfeld episode with Desperado, you know exactly what I mean.
Last Christmas, when Max was not quite four, we bought him the junior drum set. For nearly a year prior, he’d lined up all of his trucks into an elaborate makeshift drum set and bang away. It was his consistency which tipped us over the edge to getting the drum set—music and drums were clearly something he loved, and they were as much a part of him as his long eyelashes, or the intense determination that radiated from him even when he was in utero.
Lately, moms I know have been asking me how I make time to write. It’s a good question—whether we work outside of the home, or we are full-time parents, or some combination of the two, it can feel impossible to fit one more thing into a brimming life.
And realistically, there isn’t time for everything.
But what if that thing you want to make time for is your thing? What if it’s your thing, like Max’s thing is music?
As a child, I spent a lot of time scrawling in my diary or penning poems. I whittled away hours curled up in my closet, plowing through Judy Blume Books.
Words are my thing.
But somewhere along the way, the natural passion I’d had as a child got muddied. I belonged to writing groups and studied writing in school, but I couldn’t quite commit to a regular writing practice.
And there was less time and less energy than ever before. I barely felt like there was time to shower, let alone time to write. If I had a free moment, I spent it taming the laundry monster or scouring the internet for answers to my kids’ sleep problems.
How could I make time for the words that sometimes still pulsed through my head, aching to get out?
But when I looked at Max, lining up his trucks yet again to prepare for a concert, or when I watched him dance, his body fully enveloped in the music, I had another thought.
How could I not make time?
When I imagined Max in thirty years, pushing his passion—whether it’s still music or whether it morphs into something else—into the perimeter of his life, it made me so sad. Because even though his drumming is sometimes loud and grating, it is beautiful, too. Because he loves it. Because he was born loving it.
And if my job as a parent was to help Max become the person he was born to be—and I believe that is my job– wasn’t it also my job to demonstrate myself becoming the person I was born to be? Someone who made time to do what she loved. Someone who felt alive and wasn’t just treading water in the daily required tasks of adulthood.
I started carving whatever time I could find out to write. I eventually quit my part-time work from home job so I could reclaim that time to write. And with my husband’s amazing support, we added a third day of child care for our children. It felt like one of the biggest leaps of faith of my life—and I felt a tremendous pushback of guilt. How could I justify more time away from my children, not to mention the extra money for child care—to pursue some wispy dream?
I pushed through. I told myself I could change things back if my writing didn’t go anywhere. I wrote. I put my words out into the internet and I started getting positive feedback. The more feedback I got, the more I wrote. I started sending my essays out to online publications and I started getting acceptance letters.
The positive feedback lifted my spirits. But most importantly? I felt resurrected. The part of me that loves words and always had was thriving. I felt the way that Max looks when he’s lost in a song.
Do you have a thing? An idea that’s been tumbling around in your head and won’t go away? Or something you loved as a child that you can’t quite allow yourself to make space for?
Can you make a little room to give it a shot? Can you let the dishes pile up or ask your partner to hold down the fort for you? Can you squeeze out enough space to take a class?
Don’t do it because you should—“shoulds” dehydrate passion. Do it because you’re curious, because you’ve always wanted to. Do it so your kids can see you shine.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Rachel Nussbaum