Don’t go there. I don’t mean that kind of Thing. I mean the other kind of Thing – you know, the Thing that is yours, the Thing you are good at, that brings you joy, that other people naturally associate with the person that is You.
It seems that we are all supposed to have a Thing these days.
I went to therapy once (Ok, more than once!), and I recall being asked what I like to do. What am I passionate about? What is my Thing? And I recall sitting there and wondering, What do I like to do? What am I passionate about? What the hell is my Thing???
The real answer to that question at the time was Buggered if I know. But I think I fudged it so that it didn’t look like I needed more therapy than I was willing to invest in.
The honest truth is that, having given up My Brilliant Career to be Someone’s Mom, I had no idea what I liked to do, and even less idea of what I was passionate about. I had spent the past five years feeding burping changing sitting on the floor pushing shapes into other shapes listening to inane beeps and bleeps and Barney and playing in hot mosquito-infested wendy houses mashing disgusting banana and mixing it with even more disgusting pawpaw drinking more coffee than I needed and not as much wine as I deserved.
What did I like to do? I did like to drink wine. But I’m not sure that was what the therapist wanted to hear. Or maybe she did. Because then, you know, Kaching!
The truth is that I didn’t have a Thing. And it made me feel like less of a person. And so that sneaky therapist, in pretence of helping me find myself, only made me feel more lost.
I have a terrible feeling we are doing the same thing to our children.
When did it become compulsory for every child to have a Thing? Why are we, as parents, seemingly obsessed with helping our children find their Thing?
(Sorry, small snort of laughter for mothers of boy children, who never needed help finding their Thing!)
I never had a Thing at school, although I had plenty of friends who did. I have been through periods of my life when I had a Thing. Or a couple of Things. I swam throughout my school career, but mainly at home, lengths and lengths in an effort to control emotions that threatened to control me. No team swimming costume or cap for that! I played tennis for a bit, squash for a bit longer. I was academic, but this was really more of a matter of dumb luck than a Thing.
I wasn’t musical. I break out into a sweat at the mere thought of having to speak in public, let alone stand on a stage. I can’t dance, I can’t do a cartwheel, I can’t ride a horse.
And yet, I survived. Thingless. But otherwise largely intact.
It worries me that we expect our children to have a Thing when they are seven years old. Or eight, nine or nineteen, for that matter.
It worries me for those children that think they have found their Thing, because not only do they become boxed by their parents and teachers and peers, but also by themselves. It worries me particularly because there might come a time when they can no longer do that Thing. And what then? When you have defined yourself by this Thing that you can no longer do?
It worries me for those children who do not have a Thing, because as small as they may seem, they understand that there is this expectation that they will find a Thing. And the truth is that they might not find it. Or they may, but maybe not at school. Maybe not even at university. And they might spend their entire childhood looking for that Thing, and feeling, as I did when it was pointed out to me, somehow lost.
It worries me mostly because I know that I am as guilty as any other parent, trying to help my children negotiate the minefield that is school, by helping them find SomeThing that gives them a sense of selfworth. When, in fact, that SomeThing should never be a Thing in the first place, should it?
Disclaimer: Kim does have a Thing, at the moment. And yes, it has brought her a huge amount of joy. But having been in the space where she could not do that Thing for a prolonged period of time, she is even more aware than most of the danger of making one Thing your EveryThing. Also, she knows that her knees are a ticking time bomb.