Monday, February 22, 2016

Be All You Can Be, No More

Here is a great article from the Washington Post entitled, "No Honey, you can't be anything that you want to be. And that's OK." The post is a bit wide-ranging, but she seemed to focus on the role of luck and chance in success among high-achievers. You can work as hard as you want and it may pay a lot of dividends, but to get to be a professional baseball player or Supreme Court Justice, you will probably need chance on your side as well.

One thing that she didn't cover much in her article is the role of talent. I'll use my family as an example. I am academically quite gifted. I'm not bragging because I didn't do anything to get these gifts. I was born like this. I did well in school with less studying than most people. That meant I got some sleep in medical school! My husband does not have the same overall academic giftedness, but he is a problem-solver, so he excels in engineering.

Rosie Girl is much like me, but she also showed significant musical talent at a young age. As she has gotten older, her interest in anything academic has waned, but she loves learning about how music works. Wild Man didn't learn to read till he was nine when we had him tested and found that he had dyslexia. Had he been in school, he would have been labeled learning disabled. He has prodigious music talent that has just come out in the last 5 or 6 years.

Four people. Four different profiles in skills and learning. 

God gives us each a different measure of intellectual ability, physical ability, and even interpersonal skills. All of these can be worked on and improved, of course, but we are individuals with limits. 

There are people who will never develop the math skills to learn algebra because it is an abstract concept and their brains will only develop to the concrete level. They are still valuable and make contributions to society, but they certainly don't start with the advantages that other people start with. Is it fair? No. But, it's similar to someone with more cognitive ability growing up in an anti-intellectual environment.

My academic and interpersonal skills are much further developed than my physical skills, but I'm also convinced that my genetics didn't give me much help in the physical department.

Many people think that a college education is the greatest goal in life. In reality, tech schools are avidly looking for students who will work hard to fill openings where people are retiring in things like welding and construction. These are perfect jobs for those who don't graduate at the top of their class, but are willing to work hard.

Of course, the Washington Post piece didn't talk about trying to find God's will for your life, but, as Christian parents, that was part of the discussion with Wild Man and Rosie Girl as they were trying to figure out if they were going to college and where they wanted to go to college etc.

There is real freedom if we can embrace our uniqueness in God. Since we are each specially created, it doesn't matter if we're an academic high flier or a super athlete. We're loved the same by God.

When we talk to our kids when they are young, we can be encouraging about them following their dreams, I'm not remotely suggesting that kids should having their passions squashed!! If she wants to be a ballerina and you can take her to ballet lessons,well go for it! But, you can start talking about being realistic. When that aspiring ballerina sees Misty Copeland on TV and decides she wants to be principal ballerina in the American Ballet Theater, you can start talking about how few women get that far in the ballet world.

And as the kids get older, then we can talk more about the reality of what following their dreams entails and encourage hard work and persistence, but but without pushing. If that little girl still wants to be a ballerina, she'll start realizing how many classes she has to take and how hard the work is!

Remember that your children are not an extension of you or a chance to relive your life vicariously through them. All this is to say not to push a child into an activity that they don't want to. It's OK to say that have to get through the season because they made a commitment. It's OK to say you have to learn piano because you want to learn drums later. But pushing a kid who doesn't like sports into football because you played football? Hmmm - Not so much.

Let the children live their lives. The younger they are, the more you can guide and control. But, by the time they hit their teens, it's time for the parents to take a step back and more of an adviser. Another example from our family: Rosie girl started ballet at age 4 and took all the ballet classes she could take until she was 12. At that age, her friends all took two ballet classes and pre-point. Rosie Girl decided that she was not interested in dancing en pointe or pursuing pallet any further. The next year, she took theater dance and tap. She now teaches two tap classes at the studio. The point is that she was done with ballet. And she doesn't regret the choice.

Of course, our kids are special and darn near perfect as far as we, their parents, are concerned! And God made each of us unique, with our own gifts and talents. I don't want to detract from that. And we must teach our children how special they are in the eyes of a God who loved them so much that he died for them. Don't let them miss that. But, teach them to find God's plan as best they can and to be who he wants them to be, not some nebulous "anything you want".

Help your kids to figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Teach them about hard work, perseverance and persistence. Help them to be ready in case that big break comes along. But, if it doesn't they'll still be ready to live a great life!

What are your thoughts?!

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