No two children are alike. Ask any parent.
This week, my wife peeled back the lids of a cardboard box filled with photos and papers from when our kids were in elementary school.
Most parents, if you ask, will admit to owning these treasure boxes — handprint art projects, report cards and reminders of periods driving a parent to question whether they had what it took.
Parenting makes you feel like riding on the most unpredictable roller coaster. White knuckles grip the metal safety bar, the restraint the only thing protecting you from being revealed as a fraud and proof your kids will forever be messed up.
Then, as quickly as the parenting ride begins to shake your confidence, you spot an encouraging sign and regain your breath.
My wife and I rode that unpredictable ride for nearly two decades.
We have both a son and a daughter. Each is now an adult and a wonderful person inside and out. We genuinely love to spend time with them and believe they will leave the world better than they found it.
But, as all parents know, this is a journey.
One night during a parent-teacher event, our son’s fourth-grade teacher asked all the parents to write a special message encouraging their child. The idea would be that the kids would return to their class the next day and discover a motivating note to use for inspiration.
My wife didn’t take long to think, quickly scribbling two words inside the card and handing it back to the teacher.
I’m sure most cards that night were filled with high-energy, you-can-do-it motivational words of encouragement, sound logic and a thoughtful idea from the teacher.
The teacher opened ours, discovering what words of encouragement my wife so quickly scrawled.
Pausing, she looked up from the handwriting.
“Are you sure this is what you want to say?” the teacher said.
“Yes,” my wife said. “Trust me on this one.”
Across the card, she’d written two words she knew would help clear the road for our son to do his best work, feel free to succeed and allow him to be happy with himself.
Obviously unsure of the new strategy, the teacher took a breath and closed the card.
The crazy ride of life up until then had taught us our son didn’t need someone driving him to perfection, but permission to relax and enjoy life. Some people are wound up differently than others.
And his sister, well, if there is another universe of thought, she lived there. She believed a half-baked, thrown-together school project could be improved by sprinkling glitter across the surface the morning it was due. And to our son’s frustration, her strategy worked all too well and often.
But parenting is understanding you are walking a delicate balance in shaping their traits into an interesting and independent-thinking adult. Raising children is not about using a cookie-cutter recipe.
And sometimes, it means encouraging them to slow down and enjoy being a kid.
Mr. Woolsey! This is one of your best OP-ED (S). 👌 👍 I found my family in the picture you painted here. Thanks for this. I am going to send this to one of my siblings....who needs to see this!
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