When I was young, I wandered through all kinds of interests, career possibilities, and whims. After I gave up my dream of delivering the mail, I considered becoming a meteorologist. A singer. A poet. A jazz musician. A teacher. Probably lots of other things I don’t even remember. I took one of those career surveys in high school and it told me to be a ferry boat captain so I probably even considered that. (Briefly.)
Along the way all sorts of things would capture my fancy for a while. So many rabbit holes my teenage and twenty-something brain went down… e. e. cummings poetry. Philosophy. Feminism. But the one I remember most was Southern Self-Taught Art (aka Folk Art). Who knows how I stumbled across it, but I dove headlong into that world, reading and learning as much as I could about the main personalities, what they created, and where they lived. I studied it, immersed myself in it, planned trips to meet artists and see exhibits. I was fascinated.
Through every whim and detour my Dad was right along with me. I had a pile in the kitchen (that drove my Mom crazy,by the way, a pile in the middle of prime real estate) where I kept important papers and mail. Every once in a while a newspaper clipping or magazine article would appear on that pile. It might be an artist profile, or an ad for a nearby art auction. My Dad would have circled it with blue ball-point pen and written my name next to it, then ripped it out. Always looking to extend my knowledge and experience.
And so wherever my interests went, my Dad followed close behind. He learned as much as he could about what mattered to me. We went on road trips to meet artists. He even had pieces commissioned for me. When I was young, I thought it was so awesome that our interests always seemed to line up. My Dad and I just always seemed to like the same stuff! What a lucky coincidence. Once he was gone, I realized that he was really just interested in me. My growth. My enjoyment. My plans. My life. It was essential to how he parented me.
This morning I did the same for my youngest daughter. She wants to be a farmer when she grows up. I’ve made connections with some local farms and send her tidbits about farming when I run across them. This morning a local farm offered an opportunity to come work on a project. So we jumped in the car with gloves and water and away we went.
Do I care about farming? Not really. I love the country, sunrises and sunsets, and back porches, but farm life is a lot of work. I didn’t mind carrying all the gravel buckets (all my CrossFit farmer’s carries finally came in handy!) but I mainly wanted to spend time with her as she learned. We talked. We worked. We enjoyed the sun, petting the huge farm dogs, watching the sloppy pigs, exploring the farm store, and just being together, imagining what she might be and do if she became a farmer with land of her own.
So no, I don’t really care much about farming. But I do care much about her. And when I love someone, I often find their interests interesting as a way to deepen my understanding, connection, and support for them. I love that my Dad made me feel like all my little whims were worth learning about and pursuing. It was one of the ways he made me feel worthy and important. I hope I make the people I love feel the same way.