By Elizabeth Spencer
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.
My Teen’s Crazy Schedule
Dance—a dozen different styles, ten months a year, both as a student and as a teacher—and school band (percussion, including marching band drum line) are my high school daughter’s passions. Combined with a college-prep academic load, student council, and commitments to family, friends, and church, they keep her busy.
Maybe too busy.
She has very little down time. No, she doesn’t get enough sleep. She eats en route and at strange times several days a week. She seems to always be “on.”
I never planned to be one of those moms who let their kids get overscheduled and under-rested. I never planned for ours to be a family that rarely eats dinner together during the week. Yet here I am, driving my student/athlete/musician back and forth to dance class and home football games and buying her expensive recital costumes she’ll only wear once and packing dinners she can eat in the car between school and her studio.
Why It’s Worth It
But when I watch her do these things she loves, all the craziness seems to make sense. It all feels worth it because:
Doing the things she loves makes my teen happy. Not all the time, of course—what in life makes anyone happy all the time? But if something is going to consume a significant portion of my teen’s time and energy, I want it to bring her joy. I want it to light her up. My daughter’s passions do these things for her.
She wants to do it even when she’s tired, stressed, and busy. I give my daughter a couple “I don’t want to go to dance” or “I don’t want to go to drum line practice” free passes a year. But she rarely uses them, because she loves doing her “things” that much.
She’s willing to give up other things to do it. Other activities my daughter has liked (track, for instance) have received the ax, because as much as she enjoyed them, she was more committed to things she loved.
She looks forward to doing it. She talks about it excitedly. The thought of doing it energizes her, rather than depletes her.
Finding Her Passions
The things she loves reveal a piece 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.
It develops her skills and abilities. My teen’s passions have built skills and character qualities into her that she’ll carry forward for the rest of her life.
Those things create opportunities for relationship. There’s nothing quite like a shared interest and working together to forge friendships that go beyond being in the same school.
She’s Worth All the Crazy
After my daughter’s recital this year, 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’d seen her joy that night. I’d seen it before. I knew I’d see it again.
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 driving her back and forth (and back and forth) to practice and classes and competitions. And I’ll keep stocking up on protein bars that double as dinner. Closet space will be sacrificed for dance costumes. 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 teenager finds something that brings them joy and sometimes brings joy to others, all the crazy is worth it.
And because they themselves are worth it.
Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two teenage daughters. When she’s not avoiding housework by spending time on her blog, Guilty Chocoholic Mama, or on Facebook, she plays the piano badly, bakes chocolate-chip cookies, and tries to keep up her lone talent of being able to stand on her head.