Bruce Springsteen and Apple Butter
& Other Things I have Learned To Share With My Kids
With cooler mornings and evenings, I am starting to feel ready for the change of the season and autumn’s arrival. Fall brings shorter, crisper days, and the beautiful changing of the leaves, but at our house, it also means it’s time for pumpkin pancakes and toast loaded up with homemade apple butter. Each fall I set aside one day for my family to make apple butter together…that’s right, all of us sitting around the kitchen table, peeling, chopping, and gabbing while filling up a huge pot full of apples. It is a family affair, but honestly, canning and preserving food is my hobby, not my children’s. So how have I managed to get my three pre-teen children (and husband!) to participate in this fall activity?
I included them.
And it’s fun. We are all together, working, talking, and making something that didn’t exist before. We gift our apple butter to friends, family, and teachers, feeling a sense of pride in what we have created. I get to share a hobby that I love with my children, and they get the thing they want above all else, time with a parent. It is a win-win.
If you are thinking, my kids would never do that with me, and I wouldn’t want to push my hobby on them, you are not alone. An entire generation of parents feels that their interests have to take a back seat to the desires and personal interests of their children. That as parents, having hobbies is mutually exclusive with spending time with their children. Its an all-or-nothing approach that leaves parents unfulfilled and dreaming of the time before they had children when they used to… (fill in the blank on your soul-soothing activity). So parents default to spending time with their children in child-centered activities like playing on the floor with My Little Pony and Legos, hosting and carting kids to pre-arranged play dates, and hours spent on Crayola art projects.
Esther Perel, the respected and well-known psychotherapist, sums up this phenomenon in modern parenting during a recent interview on the podcast, Armchair Expert, with Dax Shepard. As she discusses how boredom seeps and creeps into the lives of parents, she points out that the needs of children have overshadowed the needs of adults. She explains “that at this moment we have never seen a generation of parents who feels more guilty about taking time for themselves…the hierarchy has changed, and we have reached an unprecedented era of child-centricity.” I agree with Perel, but feel the conversation can go one step further. Today’s parents not only don’t take time for individual activities, but they have unwittingly given up one of the great joys of parenting, sharing their personal interests with their children.
Recently my 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old twins went on a 6 hour road-trip with their dad. My husband often plays podcasts for the family when we travel, but he had forgotten to download any before this trip. However, he did have a 3-hour download of Bruce Springsteen on Broadway, which is a mix of Springsteen performing his songs along with stories, monologue style, about his life and music. My children don’t really know who Bruce Springsteen is (now they do!) or anything about his legacy, but my husband is a huge fan. After a little while, the twins fell asleep, but my teenaged daughter was struck with Springsteen’s honesty and humility. The intriguing part is that she was listening to Springsteen’s stories and music as much as she was watching her dad as he listened. My husband can be an animated fellow, and he would say things like “Oh, this one is great. So great. You gotta really listen to this one!” As though my daughter had a choice as they rumbled down a lonely road in the middle of the Utah desert. Sometimes he would hit repeat and play one of Springsteen’s monologues for a second time telling my daughter to “soak it all in.” Then it happened…my husband teared up.
Over Bruce Springsteen.
It was powerful. My daughter is still talking about it. She is grateful for this peek into her father’s world and sensitivities. She is still dissecting what is it about Bruce Springsteen’s music and perspective that touches her dad so deeply. Just as parents enjoy observing their children and supporting them in their interests, children delight in participating in something that resonates with their parents.
The first thing my husband said to me after the trip was, “the kids and I listened to Bruce Springsteen on Broadway for half the trip home from Utah. I got choked-up. I just can’t help it, I mean, there is no other storyteller that gets me like The Boss. I loved listening to Springsteen with the kids…”
The next time you are in your car running errands with your kids, turn off the “Mother Goose Club” (or Taylor Swift, depending on the age of your kids!) and put on, say, The Beatles. I challenge parents to play Yellow Submarine and not have the whole car erupt in a spontaneous sing-a-long. Let’s invite our children into our lives and share more parts of ourselves with them. Instead of endlessly adapting our adult lives to fit the tastes of our young children, let’s expose our kids to our interests and include them in our passions more often. The earlier we involve our children in our hobbies, the better the chance of the experience being mutually enjoyable.
This is not about asking or expecting children to love what you love. It is about spending time with your children sharing something you love. It is about showing up as a whole individual, who happens to also be a parent, with quirky interests, unexpected curiosities, and passions that are balm for our souls. It is about showing up in our parenting role without missing parts. When parents sacrifice their interests for the sake of their children’s constant comfort or to “keep the peace” they dually give up the opportunity to show their children what a well-rounded, whole-hearted adult life looks like.
This is where The Hopper comes in! At The Hopper we’re all about creating “smarter family time” with the key word being family! We don’t want our space to be a place where you simply drop off the kids and wait for them to finish their science activity. Rather we hope that families will choose an activity together that is going to ignite the passions of everyone in the group! If you’re making a robot we want Mom to be soldering wires, Dad digging into the programming and the kids creating design after design until it’s perfectly crazy and aerodynamic. Curious about how to make this a reality with your family? Read my tips below on how to spark some kid curiosity, and create some new family interests.
*Start Early—My children were toddlers when we first made apple butter together. They actually sat on the kitchen table with butter knives and, admittedly, mostly ate apples. But they were there, sharing the experience. With young children think of it as mini-exposures, small tastes. The goal is multiple exposures (instead of length or intensity) so that as they grow their level of participation will advance.
*Oops! Missed the Early Start—It is never, ever, too late to show your children more about who you are and what you love.
*Think Big and Creatively—Almost any activity can be adapted to appropriately include children at each stage of their development. Barbie fishing poles do actually catch fish!
*Dealing with Resistance— If you encounter resistance from your child, remind yourself that children exhibit resistance to a variety of activities, even ones they choose to participate in (soccer, dance). This is no different. Calmly deal with resistance in the same manner you do with other requests of your children and Carry On!
*What Role Does Gender Play— Observe your thoughts on how you choose to include your children to join you based on their gender identity and yours. Particularly if you struggle to include a child whose gender identity is different from yours, ask yourself why? Culturally there is a tendency to associate certain hobbies to certain genders. Check in on this subject as it relates to your relationship with your children. Children are capable of enjoying all activities regardless of their gender identity, or yours.
So, let’s include them. Let’s include our children when we listen to Bruce Springsteen, make Grandma Helen’s meatball recipe, fly fish on the Colorado River, or go rock climbing. Kids want one thing above all else, time with their parents. So in the mix of ways you spend time with your children, including reading bedtimes stories and the occasional art project, put a priority on an activity that makes your heart sing. When you do, I’m betting on hearing the music of two hearts singing.