Even though I had a degree in child development, even though I’d watched good parents for several years, I was still caught off guard by the ever-growing fact that my kids were their own people, unlike me in various ways. It took a long time to realize that my children would never be exactly what I envisioned when I held them as infants. They grew into something I did not expect, something bigger and better than I could have dreamed. However, some things that were important to me were not in the mix. And, over the years, I began to accept that and embrace our differences.
It would have been so much easier had they been athletes. I knew how to move forward with that! Instead, I learned about classical music, science, and a host of other fascinating things. I confess there was a time that I wasn’t sure how to be of value to them as my world was so very different from theirs. I questioned God’s wisdom in giving me the kids he did as I felt unqualified in the areas they loved.
However, over the years, I came to understand a very valuable truth. While my role as a parent was, first and foremost, a responsibility to support my kids in their pursuits, it was also critical that I:
- teach them from my skill set
- train them to operate in the adult world
- challenge them to do more than they thought possible
- cultivate a desire for excellence
So, I trained my introverted son to be a public speaker and my extroverted daughter to efficiently plan and execute huge events. Our family had frequent brainstorming sessions and planned detailed timelines. They worked by my side in leadership capacities learning the ropes. Little by little, I gave them increasing responsibility so that they were flying solo before they left for college. At eighteen, they were effortlessly conquering projects that would make many adults balk. They also labored by their dad’s side, gaining an incredible work ethic and acquiring his constant fascination with how things function. They were employed by others and, at a very young age, figured out the relationship of labor to financial reward.
While I couldn’t restring my daughter’s violin or explain nuclear physics to my son, I had a lifetime of experience in many areas to impart to them, not through lectures, but through vocational training of a sort. This kind of mentoring is not for the faint of heart as it requires much effort, but I believe I will see the rewards of that for the rest of my life. Even now that my family is spread all over the world, we still collaborate, learn from each other, and have a dynamic relationship that grows with each passing year.
I encourage you to embrace your unexpectedly unique children and appreciate who they are and how they are wired. In tandem with that acceptance is the need to enlarge their world by giving them a place at your side doing real things with real consequences. Have fun!
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