obsessions or treasured opportunities?

Jul 11, 2009

I have been a mother for nigh on 13 years. I have learned a lot during that time and wanted to share one pearl with you. Take it or leave it – perhaps it will be helpful on your mothering path, perhaps not.

My children are obsessive. They get totally wrapped up in something and that is all they do for days, weeks, or months. When Blythe first started doing this, I thought it was kind of cute, then perhaps a tad strange, then I thought I needed to intercede and get her interested in something else. I have learned, however, to let these obsessions play themselves out. I now know I need to take advantage of the obsession and help them learn all they can about whatever it is because it will pass and then they will be obsessed about something else and may not go back to the previous obsession. It may be my one chance to teach them about that topic.

Examples, you ask?

When Blythe was about 3, she was enamored by bugs. She and I would go for walks nearly every day and she would find and follow the bugs who were out walking as well. She would tell me all about their legs and wings and eyes and colors and what they liked to do. She would introduce herself to perfect strangers by saying “I’m a bug-lover, what are you?”

Now she wants nothing to do with bugs and says they are the worst part of the summer.

When Blythe was 5 and 6, she would listen to the Book of Mormon from 5 a.m. until bedtime. She did this every day for months and months and months. Each day when I would wake up, she would already be awake, drawing in her room, and listening. She would listen all day long. She would bring the CD’s with us wherever we went, begging to listen to them in the car. At family scripture time, we would read multiple chapters and she would be so sad when we were done. She wanted more. She would tell scripture stories to pretty much everyone she met. She listened to the Book of Mormon over 30 times during that obsession and knew the whole thing almost word for word. She would quote me entire chapters and then ask questions like “What do you think it means that the first shall be last and the last should be first? Do you think it means the Jews and the Gentiles will each come to a knowledge of the Lord or do you think it means something else?”

Now she dutifully reads a chapter of the Book of Mormon a day, but the obsession is gone.

Around age 6, she became obsessed with The Chronicles of Narnia. Once again, she listened to them every day for hours. I read the whole series to her, repeatedly.

Now, she still enjoys them, but the obsession is gone.

Around 7 1/2, she became completely and totally engrossed in The Lord of the Rings. She listened to the entire book – all 1000+ pages – over and over again. She sang the elf songs, she spoke to us in elvish, she recited Bilbo’s poems, she knew every character, every event, every thing about the saga.

This obsession is kind of still going, although it is not in the intense “I must devour this book this instant” phase.

Fisher has been obsessed with airplanes since he was about 6 months old. He could hear them miles away and would sign to us that an airplane was in the sky. He would crawl outside and would not be satisfied until he could see it for himself. He has checked out books about airplanes nearly every week at the library for several years. He watches airplane movies with a drugged look of pure euphoria. He slept with his airplane book that was a birthday present from Grandma Dorothy for months.

This obsession is still going strong, but now we are building on it by teaching him about engines, wings, missiles, etc.

There are also annual obsessions that need to be taken advantage of. A recent one in our family was patriotic music needing to be learned for the girls’ America’s Hope performance. They have sung these songs for hours and hours on end for the last couple of months. At times, it drove me bonkers. Then I would remind myself to let them sing their hearts out so the lessons of liberty would sink deep into their hearts and increase their love for America. I knew Independence Day would come and these songs would not be of huge interest for another year.

There are many more instances I could give you, of each of my children, but I think you get the picture. Now, the wisdom I have gained is let them listen, read, build, explore, etc…the obsession will pass naturally once they have gained all they need to from the subject. If it becomes a source of tension between parent and child, then the child will cling to the obsession all the more fiercely. If the parent delights in it with them and enjoys it with them, then the child will be able to discuss it with their parent and get even more learning out of it. Now, I didn’t say this is easy. It can drive me batty to have someone in my home so focused on a specific topic. I remember saying once, (even though I love, love, love the Book of Mormon) “We have got to turn this off! I just can’t listen to it another moment!”

Now that she is only reading a chapter a day, I sure am grateful I let her listen to her heart’s content when she was young!

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  1. Anne

    Such a thoroughly thought-provoking post, and this from a girl who could not walk down the hall to her bedroom, but insisted on doing either cartwheels or sommersaults all the way. The same girl read constantly from morning to night and her mother once exclaimed, “Tracy, can’t you just watch TV for once, like other children your age?!?” Then there was the entire third grade when you HAD to be the first one up to the teacher’s desk with your assignment. You kept one eye on everyone else in the class and if one of them [rarely] finished their paper before you, you still raced up to Mr. Cottrell’s desk so that you were the first one ‘in.’ Let’s see. In high school you HAD to play both volleyball and do cheerleading at the same time. Later you played basketball and did cheerleading at the same time. Had to be the Student Body President. Had to be Seminary President. Had to have perfectly matched socks and earrings. There was the year you wore two pair of socks and rolled the top pair down so that you had one foot in pink and blue socks, the other foot in blue and pink socks and one blue earring and one pink earring. Hmmmm. Very interesting.

  2. Anne

    Oh, and I just read the list of books you’ve read in 2009. Could be considered a little obsessive. And perhaps [just maybe] the 4000 pounds of pasta might fit in that category, as well. I’m just sayin’…

  3. tracy

    obsessive or excessive??????? I vote for the latter.