The second I saw my daughter after her birth I felt love like I had never experienced. The intense desire to care for and protect this human was fierce.
But it was also overwhelming and scary. She was a pure, blank canvas with so much potential and life ahead of her. There were many firsts and brand new experiences to come and I would be there for all of it.
I was there from the ground up and could be influential in her development and the type of adult she would someday become. I was going to raise a human from scratch.
As time went on I quickly realized although she was pure, she most definitely wasn’t a blank canvas. She was born with a personality. It became clear my role as her parent was to help guide her as she started to show the world her strengths and to foster and encourage them the best I could.
My job was to avoid extinguishing any of her passions as they ignited and to let her authentically be the little human she is.
Three years after that little girl was born, a baby boy joined our family. His birth made it even more glaringly clear that my thoughts on this subject were correct. His personality was different from my daughter, immediately.
It was fascinating with my background in counseling, to see nature vs nurture unfold right in front of me. I understood for the first time how much both shape a child.
My son and daughter were born with distinct personalities and clear strengths; however, my role as their mother and the environment that I created to foster them could make a significant difference.
For example, my daughter may have been born with a natural passion for art, but how I responded to that passion was integral. I saw that she was a creative, artistic, imaginative free spirit who did not fit well in a box and embraced it.
I didn’t force her to be something that she wasn’t. At a young age I encouraged her, created an art corner with a fully stocked art cart and when she was ready, found her an art teacher who has been such a mentor to her.
She now gives me art lessons. The other day, as she taught me how to paint roses, lilacs and hydrangeas I looked at her with her hair pulled back in a loose pony tail, some strands falling on her face wearing her apron that slightly covered her brand new shirt that says “dreamer” and was so grateful that I get to be here to witness this process. To see her develop into the wonderful human, so authentic to who she really is.
Had I discouraged her passion or done nothing to help her develop her skills, I can’t say for sure what would have happened, but my guess is if nothing else it would have taken longer for these talents to emerge.
The day our children are born, it’s as though we have been handed the ingredients to bake a delicious cake; maybe angel food, or vanilla with chocolate frosting or perhaps an ice cream cake. But just because we’ve been given those ingredients doesn’t mean the cake is going to to bake itself.
We need to help combine those ingredients, cook them gently and at the appropriate temperature and when the time is right open up the oven and see what kind of yummy creation has been made.
Our kids are born with strengths and weaknesses, that make up their ingredient list, but it’s what we as their guides help them do with these ingredients that is going to make all the difference. If you try and bake an ice cream cake in the oven, it’s not going to turn out well.
Between being a school counselor, a parent and now a homeschooling mom there are a few things I’ve figured out that I can do to help my child in their ”baking process“.
I spend time just watching my kids. What toys and activities do they gravitate towards? What kind of play do they engage in? What’s their personality like? How do they engage with other adults and children? What do they ask questions about?
It’s hard to remember to do this at times because sometimes I’m so busy just trying to keep my tiny humans alive that I forget to observe them, but I try.
Ask them what they like and listen when they answer
Every time I do this I’m surprised by how well my children know themselves. Sometimes the younger they are the better. Before the world has had a chance to tell them their interests are silly or a waste of time.
Be aware my child may have zero interests that overlap with mine own
And this is ok. Better even. Lucky me that I get to learn more about a subject I’ve never thought of much before. I’ve never had much of an interest in art, but since my daughter does I’ve now had the pleasure of taking her to multiple art museums.
For the first time I kind of get it, why people like this stuff. Watching her and her reaction to the paintings and listening to her observations helps me develop my appreciation for it also.
Understand the difference between giving up because it’s hard and walking away because it’s not a good fit
Sure there are times that I should encourage my child to stick with an activity and not give up, to see it through the hard stuff (you know like learning to read and do math). But there are also times I should listen to them and not force them to waste their precious time on this earth on an activity that isn’t for them.
For example my daughter wanted to try baseball this year. From the very first practice it was evident this wasn’t the activity for her.
The other kids were lit up by this sport and excited to be there. Anika not so much. Sure I could have forced her to finish the eight week season, bringing her to two practices and one game a week. Making her spend hours on something she wasn’t into or I could just listen to her and move on to something else that was a better use of her time.
I know my daughter well enough to know the difference between giving up because it’s hard, and giving up because it’s not a good fit.
Set clear boundaries and say no when it’s important but say yes to everything else
When it comes to a safety or health concern obviously say no, but sometimes I remind my self to stop and ask if this is really a big deal or if I should just allow it.
For example my daughter often creates art that is messy. Just so messy. This is something I struggle with, but I’m learning to let go and remind myself that most things can be cleaned up.
This can also be applied to things much bigger then messes too. For example when my daughter told me she wanted to teach an art class to preschool age kids. I didn’t say no, you are much too young for that. I said ok.
We gathered some young friends; I helped her prep and we made it happen. The joy from her sweet little face that day is something I will never forget.
Allow them to be bored
For some kids this is harder and more painful than for others, but sometimes this is where the best discovery’s are born, on the other side of boredom.
I try my hardest to avoid allowing them to numb out with screens or rush them to another activity to keep them from boredom, and instead provide time in their day for it to happen and let them figure out what to do with it.
Model the desired behavior
If I want my kids to figure out their passions in life and to create meaningful things with their time I need to start by doing just this.
“Life lessons are better caught then taught” and no matter what we say, it’s what my kids observe me doing that will make all the difference in the actions they take.
There’s this quote by Mother Theresa that I love. She says, “If you want to change the world go home and love your family.”
Our contributions as parents, directly impact the state of the world and direction that it is headed.
Sometimes in the hurried, frazzled downright insane at times society we live in right now, we forget this. Forget how important caring for these tiny humans that will become the next generation of big humans is. Helping them to find their strengths and their purpose on this earth and fostering them.
We are raising humans from scratch and wow are we privileged to get to do this.
About the Author: Nikki Cox is a mommy of two striving to clear away the clutter both physical and emotional so she can live life with intention and clarity. Find her at Lovelylucidlife.com.