Working Toward the Possibilities
By Jeannette Webb
The phone call came in my son’s sophomore year. There was no normal greeting, “Hey, Mom!” There was no excited verbal dump, “You are not going to believe this! This class is so cool . . . .” There was just a simple, abrupt, “Thank you.” spoken with unusual force and firmness.
Taken aback, I waited for an explanation. Turns out it was a visit weekend on his campus. Looking over the profiles of the students who wished to be housed in his dorm, he chose the student with a similar neurological profile to his own (figuring that he would understand the young man better than the other kids in the dorm).
What he got was a lesson in parenting.
As he attempted to escort the boy around campus, take him to class, and answer his questions, he was buffeted with the young man’s arrogance, shocked by his careless disregard for the feelings of others, and appalled by his self-centered attitude. When the boy’s mother joined them for class, Austin began to see where the seeds of the young man’s behavior were given root. The mother haughtily criticized the professor. She made excuses for her son’s behavior, “Well, he can’t help it. He has Asperger’s.” The attitude and the excuses continued the rest of the weekend.
As we debriefed on the phone, my soon-to-be-a-man son blurted out, “I’m so grateful, Mom. I see what I could have been.”
Wow! There honestly aren’t many moments in parenting when you feel the Hallelujah Chorus break out over your head, but this was one of those moments. As young as he was, that weekend had proved to him beyond all doubt that the work I had required of him throughout his childhood was worth the effort.
We’ve talked before about seeing with honest eyes. Years ago, when I looked honestly at my little boy, I saw such tremendous potential if it were channeled and developed. He had an insatiable mind, but a tendency to show off. He had a hysterical sense of comic timing, but no judgment skills at all in the ebb and flow of conversing with people. He wanted to learn so fast and so much that he routinely wore me out with his questions. This intense drive often led to impatience with slower minds. While it was hard to pry him away when he was engaged in a fascinating topic, he struggled with focus when he wasn’t interested.
I am here to tell you it would have been much easier to ignore the problem and hope he grew out of it! However, I had too many hours of child development classes to seriously entertain that thought for long. I knew the younger he was, the more pliable his habits and personality. Things would not get better with time. So began the laborious process of helping my little boy become the man he could be.
We never discussed (ever) my son’s giftedness. But we did acknowledge that he had been given certain talents and sought to impress him early that with great gifts came great responsibility. Luke 12:48 became a family verse, “ . . .For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. . . .” Over the course of years he came to understand that it wasn’t the possession of the gift that mattered. It was the giving back. It wasn’t about him. It was about others.
I’ve talked previously about this vital skill. Read more here.
My children and I would practice before going into an unfamiliar social situation. We would discuss what might happen, what would be expected of them, and what the ground rules were.
Several months ago I talked about debriefing. Check it out here.
That phone call, when my son acknowledged the gift he had been given, happened over six years ago. It was an amazing day when the Proverbs 31 promise was fulfilled in my life. My son rose up and called me blessed. I didn’t figure it would happen until my funeral!
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