If It Were Me | September 2016

By Elizabeth Oates

Have questions?

Dear Elizabeth,

I am a creative soul who thrives on time alone to imagine, cultivate and think about possibilities and grandeur. I adore the whimsical in life and find beauty in the unknown. I love to write, draw, paint and create something magnificent out of the ordinary.

The problem is that I want to share my passion with my 5-year-old daughter, but she doesn’t seem interested. She is more drawn toward gymnastics, dolls and playing with her friends. I don’t understand how I birthed a child with such average interests. Any advice?


Artful and Apprehensive

Dear Artful and Apprehensive,

It seems like you have two issues waging war within your exceptionally creative mind and soul. The first issue is the death of a dream. When you carried your daughter in your womb, you probably envisioned future trips to the art museum, where you would teach your child about Monet, Ansel Adams and abstract versus contemporary art. You may be mourning your dream of raising a pint-sized Picasso.

Let me say, I understand this loss of a dream. I grew up dancing and studied with the Houston Ballet for a few years. I just knew my daughter would follow in my pointe shoes. She has the body type, the work ethic and the ultimate dance mom (me). Until one day when she crushed my fantasy. Out of nowhere a lanky little athlete emerged, wanting to pursue soccer, basketball, softball and volleyball — basically, anything with a ball — and she kissed tutus and tiaras goodbye.

At first, I lived in denial, convinced she would realize the error of her ways. I enrolled her in a hip-hop class and took her to cheer day. I tried anything in hopes of the dancing bug biting her. No such luck.

Then, finally, I grieved the loss of the little ballerina I had imagined for so many years. I said goodbye to my dream and hello to hers because her dream is what really matters. I already lived out my passion; now it is her turn. I have embraced her world of sports and love watching her run down her opponent, a look of intensity on her face.

I encourage you to find the beauty in what your daughter enjoys. If it’s gymnastics, look for the artistry in the form and dedication of the sport. Enjoy the wonder when she steps off the balance beam with a look of pride and confidence. As she plays with her dolls, know that it is you she emulates, modeling what she sees you do and preparing for her own future motherhood. There is nothing more creative or beautiful than that.

My second concern is that you seem to view any interests — other than yours — as average. I think you need to examine the issues of your own heart. As we come off the Summer Olympics, I wonder if Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas or Aly Raisman would agree with your description of their sport as “average.”

Many gymnasts, athletes, intellectuals and people with a variety of interests devote hours to become great at what they do. I encourage you to view your daughter as uniquely and wonderfully made. Just because she does not share your interests does not make her or her hobbies “less than.”

You also mention that you love to be alone, yet your daughter loves spending time with her friends. It might be that as an artist, you are more of a contemplative introvert, while your daughter is more of an extrovert. She has already discovered the truth that Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”

It’s OK that God has wired you and your daughter differently. Embrace and appreciate her unique qualities. It sounds like you complement each other well.

Dear Elizabeth,

I think my husband is addicted to video games. Every night after work he plays on his vintage Atari or Nintendo for one to two hours. He says it’s his stress relief, but I think it’s a waste of time. How do I know if this is a hobby or an addiction? When should I worry?

— S.L.

Dear S.L.,

It’s a good thing this letter is anonymous, or you would have a line around the corner of husbands wanting to play on a vintage Atari and Nintendo. I admit, I’d like to play some old-school Tetris myself.

As you describe your situation, my first instinct is to say your husband is not addicted. After all, do you watch “The Voice”? “The Bachelorette”? “The Bachelor”? And don’t even get me started on “Bachelor in Paradise.” Millions of people tune in to those shows each week, wasting hours of their lives, and not one person is labeled “addicted.”

Likewise, according to The New York Times, people spend about 50 minutes per day on Facebook and other social media sites. Obviously, people claim to enjoy these and other vices, none of which they see as addictive.

If you are still concerned, however, here is a basic litmus test, according to psychologytoday.com:

Importance: How important is it in your life? Not only how much are you doing it, but how much are you not doing other things because of it?

Reward Response: Does it make you feel better? Does not doing it make you feel worse?

Prevalence: Do you find yourself doing it for longer than you intended? Do you find that however long you plan to do it, it’s never enough?

Cessation: Do you feel anxious, uncomfortable or even go into a panic if you don’t do it or if you even think about not doing it?

Disruption: Has it disrupted your life or relationships?

Reverting: If you tell yourself you’ll do something different but keep doing the same thing, you might be addicted. Or if you constantly make up excuses why right now is not the best time to make a change.

After reading this list, if you are still concerned your husband might be addicted to his video games, talk to him about it. Read this list together. If his video game-playing is negatively affecting the quality of his health or your life together, then seeking a professional counselor as a couple might be beneficial.