How Sharing My Interest in the Arts Helped Me Become a Better Parent

Though nothing has been disastrous (yet), I have managed to mess up many aspects of parenthood. A good example: Easter. Somewhere along the way, I began referring to the Easter Bunny as Peter—he bizarrely morphed with Peter Rabbit for a reason I can’t remember. To avoid a Sunday morning food-coloring feast because of my own aversion to chemicals in food dye, Peter would steal the Easter eggs from our house rather than leave them out to be found and consumed. 

Perhaps even more reflective of my failures is the fact that this alternate history about the Easter Bunny came about at all, since my family has been Jewish as far back as anyone can remember. Spoiler alert: Jews don’t celebrate Easter.

But I have done a lot of things right, too. I’ve demystified swearing and curse words, taught my daughter that avant-garde jazz isn’t always as terrible as people say it is, and, perhaps most importantly, I’ve helped instill in her a love for the performing arts. 

From practically the moment she was born, I’ve been bringing my daughter to events, both at Symphony Space and all around the city. I’ve made efforts to make the arts a regular part of her life, and not just a once-a-year visit to the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes (thereby avoiding Christmas-specific events and balancing out the whole Jewish/Easter thing, I suppose). 

I’ve taken her to music concerts that spanned genres, from rock to jazz to classical and just about everything in between. We’ve attended a ton of dance performances, seeing everything from tap to ballet to percussive dance. And we’ve been to more theatrical events than I can count.

The results have made a huge impact on her life. We’ve had discussions about what it takes to write songs and compose music, and where the different styles of music originated. I’ve watched her choreograph dances for stuffed animals and our cat after viewing dance performances (great stuff, despite the erratic performances by the lazy stuffed bears and the overly entitled cat, who studied briefly with Balanchine—as if we needed to hear that story again for the billionth time!).

I’ve also witnessed her take the things she’s seen and apply some amazing thoughts and questions to the world outside of the performances: How do bands decide where to put their instruments onstage? How do puppeteers transport their fragile-looking puppets without breaking them? How do performers create funny voices, and is that what the actor sounds like in real life?  

And the results have helped her in school as well. Why write yet another story about a turtle, when a critique of the lighting for that circus show is so much more interesting? Don’t think math is important? How are you going to settle up with the venue for your 80-percent cut of the merchandise profits if you can’t figure out how to calculate percentages? (She’s way into money—the little capitalist!) 

All of this is to say the arts have helped shape her as a thinker and communicator in ways I could never have done as successfully without their assistance. 

Sure, you could argue there’s another dad out there who lets his kids eat the damn eggs crawling with Yellow Dye No. 6 (aka benzenesulphonic acid, treated with hydrochloric acid and sodium nitrite), and whose preference for baseball means he can testify that sports have had the same effect on his child as the arts has on mine. But I guess that kind of just strengthens what I’m saying, right?

When we find ways to share our passions, hobbies, loves, and interests with our children, we bond in ways we could never imagine, help expand our children’s minds, and become more communicative, responsive parents as a result. Thanks, arts! Thanks, baseball! And thanks, Easter Bunny, for burying your eggs in Mr. McGregor’s garden and not in mine!

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Main image: Darren Critz and his daughter Regan

Courtesy Darren Critz