Purple Strange: Parenting Lessons Learned By Dismissing an Icon

I have not been a Prince fan although I certainly admire and respect his music.

I can sing along to a few of his hit songs, but would find it difficult to name most others.  I might even be guilty of identifying “Kiss” as “that one song that Julia Roberts sang in Pretty Woman.”

I don’t, however, need to be a Prince fan to relate the musical icon’s sudden passing to lessons I can use in parenting my kids.

Prince was always too weird for me.  His flamboyance did not jive with my buttoned-up, “color-in-the-lines” mentality.  I prefer nicely folded jeans and a tidy t-shirt to his tight, velvet pants and bare-chested look.

Growing up in the 80’s, I let his perceived “weirdness” allow me to ignore the singer’s genius.  All of the greatest that people now eulogize – the trailblazing, the social activism, the unbelievable writing – I completely missed.

Prince was just too weird for me to take notice.  I’m paying attention for a different reason now.

As a parent, I bring similar judgments to aspects of my kids’ lives – sometimes without realizing it, other times more deliberately.

Most notably, my biases have ushered my kids into activities that I tend to enjoy.  I subtly steer my kids toward anything sports-related while shunning opportunities with music, theater or the arts.

I’d say that I would love for one of my kids to play baseball like I did while secretly dreading the thought of sitting through an all-day show choir competition if my son decides to try out.

If I keep this up, I could be shunning my kids’ hidden passions – just as I ignored the now-fallen, iconic music legend.

I’ve come around to the fact that Prince was not as weird as much as he was passionate and focused.  He found the one thing that he loved and worked relentless to be great at it.

Sure, he was eccentric and a little strange, but he did what he loved and was, above all, himself.

His death and the subsequent press coverage, have me asking questions about raising my little ones:

Am I parenting my kids to find their true passions?

Do they understand that being different is okay?

Am I teaching my kids “play it safe” too often?

Are they scared to be perceived as weird?

Providing the route for my kids to develop the passionate drive that made Prince weird by my standard could very well be an important part of my job description.

Subtle changes could help foster my kids’ passions.

I could allow my children more space to themselves.  I might talk to them without judgement about what they love doing.  We should chat about what they want to do more (or less) of.  Most of all, I should re-think pushing my kids toward activities I like or those which we seem to already be good at.

Allowing my children the freedom to find their passions has other impacts – they will start to recognize passion in others.

They’ll realize the “nerdy” kid in class that loves LEGO’s could be a budding Frank Lloyd Wright.  They might understand that their classmate with the grimy, dirty fingernails has a love of insects that is actually pretty cool.

Unlike me, they wouldn’t immediately dismiss passions for being strange.  They’d be more likely to, just as Prince did, deviate from the herd of normal and comfortable.

Although it’s true that this Good-Bad Dad knows only two words to the Prince hit “Purple Rain”, I have come to respect his mastery of living a passion-filled life – albeit a life that prematurely came to an end last week.

For me, Prince’s music is not all that cements his legacy – the weird way we followed his passions does.

I hope that my parenting empowers each of my children to feel comfortable being just as weird.

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