Michael Chabon was worried about his son, as all fathers worry. His son seemed lonely, seemed uninterested in the things his peers liked. Then one day, they found themselves at some type of fashion industry event as part of Chabon’s work. And his son was fascinated.
These creative and artistic people were so unlike the parents of his friends or the kids at his school. He came alive with a kind of infectious excitement that was reciprocated kindly by the other attendees. After the event, Chabon looked at his son who seemed suddenly possessed by a confidence and purpose he didn’t have before. “You were with your people,” Chabon said to him. “You found them.” His son nodded. With both pride and understanding, all Chabon could say was, “That’s good. You’re early.”
Is there anything we could want more for our kids than for them to find “their people”—the ones who inspire and challenge and accept them? Whether it’s a community of musicians or the football team, ROTC or a group that skateboards in the neighborhood, the group that takes your kid in and makes them feel like they have a home is like a second heart, a second family. Unfortunately, no parent can will this group to materialize or this connection to happen. We can only help.
How? By accepting our kids, first and foremost. Our job isn’t to mold our kids into people who will be liked by the people we like (or identify with). Our job is to let them be who they are, to become who they are meant to be, and to encourage and accept them at every step on that journey.
What we can do to help them on their journey is to give them confidence that who they are is enough; to encourage them to get out there and find their people; and to facilitate and support the growth of the group that ultimately takes them in–even if it means driving them around, letting the garage be used for their awful heavy metal band, skipping out on stuff we’d like to do because it’s soccer season, or because they want to go to theater camp instead.
We want our kids to have friends. We want them to feel like they belong. We want them to have their second family. So we have to do what it takes to allow that to happen.