You can help a tomato plant thrive. You can set the conditions by laying compost and building a trellis and regularly watering and pinching off suckers to help it focus its energy. But no amount of care you provide it will turn it into a peach tree.
Likewise, you'll never been able to turn a walnut into a persimmon or an apple into an apricot.
Kids are like this. They are little humans with a seed inside them. And it can grow any number of different directions, but there are things it simply will not do.
Now that we know our children as expressive, independent humans, it's easy to look backwards and see that the kernel of who they are has always been there.
This is why I always get uncomfortable when people say "I loved baseball so much when I was a kid and I wanted a son to pass on my love of the game to and now he's here so we're doing baseball."
There are many occasions where this is wonderful and good. But also: what if that son decides he's not that into baseball (and - frankly - who would be? baseball is boring).
Those dreams are so specific they've become de facto expectations of that child. And anything other than loving baseball will be a huge letdown.
And kids are social/emotional barometers - they know when we feel let down. They feel it deeply even if they can't put it into words.
So instead of approaching our children with specific things we need them to do to make us feel whole or accomplished (looking at you Tiger Moms forcing your kids to play the violin so they can go to an elite school and clerk for Brett fucking Kavanaugh), my wife and I have given them a buffet of experiences and just followed their leads.
The result is that my kids are doing some things I think are absolutely wonderful to be around (piano, guitar, etc) and they're also doing some things that I simply do not get on any levelbut that I can see a lot of good coming from because they've self-selected to pursue excellence in that thing.
We don't force a tomato to pretend to be a peach. We do what we can to avoid putting our shit (as parents) on our kids. We simply compost and water and empower our kids to become the most full-fledged versions of themselves they want to become.
Into horses? Okay, here are some good boots and some lessons.
Into the guitar? Okay, here's a guitar and an amp and some apps and some lessons.
And we also make sure the kids never feel like they have to continue a thing because of us. We give them encouragement and support, but also make sure they know our love and support is unconditional.
Kids need to be told that our love is unconditional. Just because you and I know this does not mean they do. And we have to tell them regularly – as a practice - because their self-doubt has a way of creeping in alongside all the noise of the world.
This is the soil our children are growing in. Their knowledge of our love and support as they try, and become, and fail, and try again - that's their soil.
Parenting also gets easier and less stressful when you're not attached to any specific outcome. That interest fizzled out? Great, there will be more. That audition didn't pan out? Sweet, what's next? The things that die off become part of the compost.
And - just as in gardening - when you focus on feeding the soil your kids are growing in, they're sure to find success in their own way however they define it.