Kindling the Curiosity of an “Interesting” Kid

Kindling the Curiosity of the Interesting Kid

Cheerios, jellied cranberries and vanilla ice cream: the three food groups my little brother ate growing up. He was the third of four kids and I’m sure my mom just thought, well at least he’s eating something. This same brother of mine just got married and, as my parents described to the guests at his wedding, he was the “most interesting” of their four children.

I think “interesting” encapsulated both the worry and the reward of raising a kid who saw and chose to experience the world differently. In addition to his very particular palette, he did flying leaps from the couch onto our baby brother, blamed every bad thing he did on a ghost, and carried the Guinness Book of World Records everywhere he went. In third grade, a police officer did a career day presentation to his class and at the conclusion, the officer asked if there were any questions. My brother’s hand shot up and he asked, “Can you spell the longest word in the English language?”

He followed his interests from sports to space camp to a summer job working at a senior center, soaking up stories from the retirees. After college, he moved overseas to live in the middle of the desert on an oil rig, with time off spent traveling the world.

I recently asked him what he remembers from childhood that helped kindle his own curiosity. I was looking for lessons I could apply to my own parenting and here are a few nuggets I’m going to try, too.

A Perfect Attendance Trophy Still Counts

A Perfect Attendance Trophy Still Counts - Parent.com

When my parents downsized their house, my mom seemed overjoyed that she could finally unload the boxes of memorabilia she’d amassed throughout my childhood. My husband received a similar delivery from his mom when we got married. Both were unsentimental send-offs of stuff to the rightful owners.

We moved these unopened boxes from apartment to apartment to finally our first home. They sat stored in the basement for months until one night we decided to dig in and purge. In his, we found a stack of juicy notes from two high school girlfriends, a truck collection, and loads of football and hockey paraphernalia. In mine we found art projects, scrapbooks, my troll collection, and, at the very bottom, a lone trophy. As I carefully unwrapped the newspaper surrounding that golden girl set atop a metallic blue pillar, it brought me back to the summer of 1992.

The air was frigid, even though it was mid-July. The gray sky loomed ominously as I snapped a swim cap over my head and shoved my ponytail into the tight rubber rim. I looked around. Only two other swimmers had shown up, so I had a lane to myself. I stretched my goggles over my eyes, dipped under the water, and propelled myself off the wall into my warm-up. I was 11 years old and I had my eyes on a big goal.