Leave the kids to grow their own talents

My four-year-old son may not share all my interests, but he is different from me in ways that make me proud

A few months ago, my wife subscribed to the kids' package of channels on cable television for our four-year-old son.

Secretly, though (or not), it's as much for me as it is for him.

While he watches Paw Patrol and Blaze And The Monster Machines on Nick Jr in the mornings, I watch shows such as We Bare Bears and reruns of Takeshi's Castle on the Cartoon Network - it is my way of unwinding at night after a long day at work.

Sometimes, our interests meet.

He likes Transformers and Spider-Man, just like I did when I was four, and we watch them together because, well, I still like Transformers - not the Michael Bay movies, though - and Spider-Man.

Besides displaying that I have the tastes of a pre-schooler and showing how entertainment companies have been rehashing and profiting off popular franchises for decades, watching the shows together also provides a nice avenue for father-son bonding.

He is amazed when I tell him I used to watch Transformers way back in the 1980s, which to him might as well have been during the age of the dinosaurs.

Oh, and we both love dinosaurs too.

My son has a poster of the alphabet in his room, with different superheroes representing the different letters: A is for Aquaman, B is for Batman and so on.

Once in a while, he will ask me to take it down for a closer look at it and I'll happily point out the different superheroes to him, together with their backstories and what their powers are.

This takes me back to a time well before I could read, when I would just flip through my older brother's collection of old Gold Key Disney comics as well as DC and Marvel superhero titles and just be amazed at the adventures contained within.

Trying to recreate the artwork I saw in these comics, by the likes of artists such as Jim Aparo or Gil Kane, was one of the joys in my life when I was a child.

I could spend hours drawing the superheroes I saw in comic books and on TV, on endless sheets of A3-sized paper, or in the margins of my textbooks in between lessons once I was in school.

My son, however, doesn't share my love of drawing - not yet, anyway.

Sure, he draws and scribbles on the sketchbooks we buy for him, but not in the obsessive way that I used to. I'm a little disappointed that he hasn't followed me in this respect, but it's something that I accept.

As much as we'd like to think that our children are miniature versions of us - and to a certain extent, they are - they are also individuals with their own talents and interests.

Our attempt to nurture an interest in music in our son by buying him a miniature piano - an instrument which I learnt when I was younger, only to give up at Grade 5 - has so far been unsuccessful.

Also unsuccessful: our attempt to get him to pick up the Arabic language through an enrichment class offered at the childcare centre we send him to.

That said, I don't want to be one of those parents who try to get their children into the same career that they have, love the same sports team they do or listen to the same music.

I might like hip-hop and punk rock, but I'm sure my son, in his teens, is going to be listening to some new genre of music that hasn't even been invented yet and which will no doubt annoy my delicate middle-aged ears.

My boy is also different from me in ways that make me very proud.

For example, I cannot kick a football to save my life. I just can't.

I mean, I'd played football when I was younger, but I have neither the natural ability nor an interest in the sport.

I've tried to feign interest in it, but now I'm old enough not to care that, unlike many of my peers, I don't follow the English Premier League or any other football leagues for that matter or have a favourite club or player.

My son is entirely different.

While he has no interest in watching an entire 90-minute match, he loves kicking his football around and does it pretty well for a four-year-old.

Maybe it's just my parental pride talking, but it's a thing of beauty to watch him run and kick the ball. I'm sure with enough practice and guidance, he will be an amazing football player.

"Do not raise your children the way your parents raised you, they were born for a different time," Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin of Prophet Muhammad, is reported to have said.

Perhaps it's best that even as we parents try to mould our children into the best versions of ourselves, we let them discover their own talents and personalities as they journey through life in this new era they were born into.

They might just surprise us in the process.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 06, 2017, with the headline 'Leave the kids to grow their own talents'. Print Edition | Subscribe