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A Case for Allowing Our Kids To Be Quitters

photo (257)It’s taken me nearly my whole life to realize that sometimes quitting is the answer. The entire notion of walking away from something is all but foreign to me. I was taught to keep my eye on the prize, try harder, and push through in the name of finishing what you started and reaping the rewards. But what happens when your heart checks out of a dream and changes its mind? Do you keep on going out of loyalty or habit, or do you leave it all behind to pursue a new dream?

From the time he was 5 years old, Boy Wonder showed incredible artistic talent. He was masterful with a crayon, able to draw a near perfect circle and ruler-straight line. He was always drawing and searching for inspiration in everything from coloring books to nature, book illustrations to album covers. His interest in art was so undeniable that we scraped up our pennies to enroll him in art lessons. He excelled under instruction, loved the challenge and encouragement, and for years created beautiful masterpieces (click here, here, here, and here to see) that he took tremendous pride in — until he just didn’t anymore.

For the last year or so, aside from his obligatory Saturday morning art lessons, Boy Wonder has completely stopped creating. No longer can you find him doodling on napkins, notebooks, old receipts and junk mail envelopes. No longer does he ask to go art shows, museums, or enter art contests. His interest in nearly all artistic pursuits has waned. Now, at 11 years old, he’s decided that 6+ years of art lessons is enough.IMG_4359

And maybe it is. HuffPost Parents reminded me just this morning that there were only 940 Saturdays between my child’s birth and his leaving for college. According to my superior math skills, 340 of those Saturdays have already been spent in art class. Whoa.

The truth is, Boy Wonder and I have been battling it out for months over quitting. While it only stands to reason that what brought him joy at 5, 6, and on, to 10 years old isn’t the same thing that continues to make him happy — quitting art is about so much more than freeing up Saturday mornings for me. It’s about letting go of his childhood and perhaps wrongly, a significant part of his identity. He’s always been Boy Wonder, child artist. Who is he if not that kid? Surely something equally amazing, but would he be wasting his talents by quitting? I wasn’t sure.

Should I continue pushing him on the “you’ll thank me later” defense or should I honor his wishes?

IMG_6468-225x300I wasn’t sure, but after months and months of back and forth, I chose to honor his wishes.

When I notified his art instructor of his desire to leave the studio, she told me that she could tell from his last few pieces that his heart wasn’t in it. She mentioned that while he was incredibly talented, it didn’t matter how brilliant an artist was if his passion for creating was gone.

It took that conversation to realize that my son’s life passions have nothing to do with me, but rather, whatever brings him personal joy … even if he’s not quite sure what that is yet. So maybe he’s no longer an artist. Maybe he’s something bigger and better that he has yet to discover. And maybe it’s just time to find out.

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