Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Channeling Talia…

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I think about the "formula" (if there even is one) for raising curious, creative, interesting kids pretty much non-stop.

Obviously there's a huge "nature" component to who we ultimately become, but I try to supplement it with an awfully hefty dose of nurture, while at the same time bracing myself for the fact that despite all my efforts to the contrary, it's altogether possible that one of the girlies might decide to become a CPA. (Not that there's anything wrong in theory with CPAs…we need them…they're important…)

My "nurture" strategy includes lots of classes for the girls (ballet and art and French) and lots of experiences (museums and theater and live music) and as much travel as we can afford, but what I often overlook is the formative impact on them of what I'm doing/how I spend my free time.

I heard Terry Gross's Fresh Air interview with Jason Schwartzman while I was driving to lunch last week and was totally struck by how he describes the environment that his mother (the actress Talia Shire) created in their home, specifically this:

"But, at a young age, what I really did witness, because she never forced it upon us, but I witnessed how movies and music can be nutritional, I guess, to a person. I would come home from school; she would always be downstairs with an old movie on. Every room in our house had a different book open, face down. There would be music on in one room, even though she wouldn't be in it, and she would kind of just go from room to room and pick up and read and go and listen and go downstairs and watch. She needs that. It's still the same way. If you go to my house, the same house I grew up in, she's there with movies on, music playing and books everywhere. And so I witnessed how important these things can be to you."

After hearing Schwartzman recount that specific memory, I had to pull over so I could jot a little note to myself… Here's what it said:

the type of mother I want to be…"walk the walk"

Schwartzman doesn't mention a mother that signed him up for a back-to-back roster of classes, helming an endless carpool circuit from one enriching creative activity to another. Rather what seemed to have (at least partially) formed him as a creative being is what he "witnessed" his mother doing (or rather living) — her love of cinema and books and music…her passions.

This is hugely important don't you think? This "walking the walk", this showing your kids that you value art or literature or theater or creative pursuits, not because you get them to participate, but because you do them yourself.

I have to admit it feels selfish when I do things simply because I love to do them. If I have a few moments of free time (rarely), I feel guilty (especially as a working mother, but I know my SAHM friends struggle with this as well)…like I need to be doing flash cards with Millie or drawing with Audrey or taking them on a nature walk, or you know…making them into "super-kids".

But I don't think it has to be that complicated. My girls mimic me and Bryan incessantly. If we're reading, they read. If I'm cooking, they want to cook, if Bryan pulls out his guitar, they want to play instruments. It's incredible (and scary) how much our actions influence what they want to spend their time doing…and I know this phenomenon might not last, that we have a sort of finite period to imprint our habits and pastimes onto their little forming psyches.

So I'm going to try and channel Talia a little bit more. We'll see how it goes.

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