Recently, I had a friend tell me my son is absolutely wonderful. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a “humble brag” post. It is, instead, a reminder to me and you to embrace the light within our children.
If we are to embrace the greatness in our kids, we first have to recognize it.
When Jacob was born I had dreams of who he would become. He would play basketball like his father. He would get good grades because his mom was a teacher. In short, he would become just like his parents, but better.
Here’s the problem with dreams like mine: dreams based on my own personal values and bias are really just expectations disguised as dreams.
Over time, it became clear Jacob wasn’t interested in basketball. Nor was school his thing. His lack of interest in basketball was a disappointment for his dad, but it wasn’t something on which we focused. School was a different matter altogether.
Knowing his potential, I was confused by his struggle in school. Around fourth grade, he was no longer a model student. Good grades were my expectation, so I started implementing consequences which only brought compliance. All the way through college, Jacob did just enough to get by. His way of learning simply didn’t fit the box of school.
I spent too many years overlooking his strengths and passions looking for who I thought he should be. So did many of his teachers.
Since Jacob’s graduation, I started letting go of the vision of the son I wanted him to become. Instead, I’m replacing my dreams (code for expectations) with the realization of the amazing qualities of the human he already is.
Part of the challenge is we’re surrounded by a culture that values a more traditional definition of success.
The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind—computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people—artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers—will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys. ~Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind
In looking for the kind of person who could get an MBA at Harvard, I missed Jacob’s creativity and uniqueness. Jacob is a big picture thinker, artist, pattern recognizer, and more importantly, he is compassionate. My friend is right: he is absolutely wonderful.
Had I known then what I know now, I would’ve made different choices. I would’ve noticed his strengths more than his flaws and embraced his light, instead of dimming it. I would’ve cared less about what others may think.
My friend Nancy says, “So much of parenting is remembering to raise the child I have rather than the child I dreamed up in my imagination.”