Children are phenomenal
Alright, it’s time to ‘fess up. I love kids. If you only know me through this blog, then that’s probably already obvious to you. But if you know me in real life, not so much. In “real life” I always say that I don’t like kids generally; I like specific kids. Specifically mine. But I’m realising that that’s simply not true. (I’ve long-held that belief because at one time we thought we couldn’t have kids, and pretending not to want them was easier than facing the pain of that loss. More on that some other time).
Children are magnificent. They are bold and courageous. Vast and brilliant. Their potential is infinite, and they know no bounds. They have no idea what they can’t do, so they blithely do whatever takes their fancy.
A child’s view is fresh and untainted. Through their eyes, everything is new and sparkly. Each moment brings new wonder, and their joy and genius can be contagious – if we let it be.
They need to know
Do they know? When last did you tell your daughter that she astonishes you? That her strength and resolve will stand her in good stead all her life? That being independent and courageous is a good thing – a grand thing? How often has your son heard you admire his innovation? Does he know that those heart stopping moments when he disappears up a tree make you proud as much as they terrify you? Does he know that his gentle care of an injured butterfly breaks your heart and delights your soul?
Do they know how phenomenal they are?
You need to recognise it
Do you know how phenomenal they are? Do you get so caught up int he hustle and bustle of every day that you lose sight of the great and infinite truth that this precious moment is the only one of its kind that will ever exist – anywhere? Your daughter will never be nine years old and utterly uninhibited again. Never again will she be eleven years old and self-conscious for the very first time. Your son will never offer you that particular, tiger-striped snail as a grandchild ever again. He will never throw that particular stick in that wild, abandoned, utterly delighted way ever again. There may be other snails, other sticks. There may be other milestones, other daughters, even. But this one millisecond is the only one of its kind there will ever be. Ever. Do you see that? Do you feel the desperate need to bottle it, to ponder it, to guard it in your heart and bring it out in quiet, lonely moments, worthy as it is of endless admiration? Take notice now. Don’t let another frazzled second pas in which you fail to see the gift you have in front of you this very moment. Invest in the ultimate success of these precious gifts we call our children, almost as if they could ever belong to us. We know better, don’t we?
Amazing is not faultless
Just because our children are infinite in their capacity to delight and bless, they are not perfect. Recognising the pleasure we have in every moment with them is not the same as overlooking the areas that need work. Each and every one of us has room to grow. We must grow, learn, evolve all the time. We should take active steps to develop our intellect, our spirituality, our relationships, our skills, and our bodies. We’ll never reach the place where we can say, “Okay, I’ve arrived. I’ve done enough in this area. I can stop developing here.” Because the day we say that is the day we begin to die. Rather, we should learn to be adaptable to the change that attends every stage of life, and embrace it as tangible evidence of our personal development.
In the same way, we need to be cognizant of the fact that our kids aren’t done yet. They need us. Our job is to do whatever we can to help them be the best they can be, and that implies that they’re not already the best they can be. They’re not. They’re flawed human beings with failings and shortcomings. Be aware of that. Enjoy it, because those so-called “blemishes” on their perfect selves ground us, humble us, and often delight us with their innocence. These, too, will pas (if we do our jobs right!), and we need to nurture our children through the rough patches into the exquisite gardens they can be.
Just don’t expect more than they can deliver. In fact, don’t expect anything. Swop your unreasonable and unfounded expectations for a sense of expectancy, renewed every morning by the imminent delight that your privilege,a s parent, allows you in seeing them mature and navigate the perils of growing up – all with you at their side, faithful ally and trusted navigator.
Amazing comes with a responsibility
So, what do we do about all this awesomeness? Here’s the thing: with great power comes great responsibility. Our children have a responsibility, and we should ensure that they know this. It’s not enough to reassure them that they’re great. Trust me, they know it. If we do our jobs right, our children will have a strong sense of self-worth and a well-established self-image. They’ll be confident and bold. They may also be entitled, a blight that afflicts more and more of the next generation. Business owners complain daily about the trouble they have finding dependable staff. School leavers have a sense of what they deserve that beggars belief. They feel that lazing around texting their friends or gossiping on Facebook is their inalienable right, and they actively defy any who disagree – from parents to employers to authorities. They certainly make no meaningful contribution to society. Whatever spark of greatness they may have been born with is utterly diluted by years and years of ego-stroking. Parents alone are not to blame here. Peers, the media and society at large have developed such a strong fear of raising insecure, withdrawn or shy youngsters that we’ve overbalanced entirely and tipped the scales in favour of morally bankrupt sociopaths.
We have a deep responsibility, and it’s one we should never dream of shaking off lightly. We must teach our children to take responsibility for themselves. We must teach them to be strong and independent of us (wholly dependent on God). We must teach them to recognise and value their strengths, wherever they lie. We must teach them to use these strengths to serve. We need to redefine the common, hollow definition of success from “the one with the most stuff at the end is the winner” to something far more valuable: the value of significant service. Nothing has more reach. There’s no greater way to impact this world or leave a legacy, then to devote your talents to the service of others – no matter how small or great that act of service may be.
What will you do about that?
Since the moment I found out I was pregnant, I’ve been telling my daughters they’re wonderful. They truly are divine gifts, and I am so very grateful. They know that. We work together to identify their strengths and talents, and workshop ways in which these can be used to enhance the lives of others. We honestly appraise areas for improvement and then work on those as a supportive team. We boldly identify things that may possibly never be “fixable”, because sometimes we’re just made that way. Honest appraisal leads to authentic acceptance and allows to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses in others like the multiple facets of a sparkly gem. It also leads to humility. Knowing we have areas of strength as well as areas of weakness makes us humble and grateful for what we have.
This is how I am working with my girls to develop both confidence and character. What’s working for you, in your family? I’d love to hear your comments.