Encouraging our children to succeed in being themselves
Feb 28, 2014 | 1314 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The sun was shining and the temperature was glorious. I decided it was the perfect day to move Sadie’s pups outdoors into the fresh air for a little while. As I watched them on a tile floor trying out their newfound legs, it was amusing. They fanned their front legs as if swimming and with each effort slid backwards, then somehow each inched forward a little. No one told them to keep trying but they really want to get to my lap — two puppies made it, two were still struggling.

Twenty minutes later, they were beginning to get a little tired so I added Mama Sadie to the mix. Can you guess what happened next? Those two puppies were there in no time … so here I sit with four pups and a Mama Pup in my lap. In this instance, Mama Sadie’s example made the difference. They were encouraged.

My thoughts travel to my own children. Naturally, I am very proud of each of them for different reasons. But like that Mama Pup, I cannot claim credit for anything that they have accomplished. I have only been able to stand on the sidelines and encourage them — sometimes quietly — letting them know, I loved them unconditionally. The choices, the directions and the will-to-succeed have come from inside of each of them.

Along the way, we, my children and I, have faced some real hurdles. Today, I just want to share a snapshot in time of a precious little boy born between two self-driven high-achieving sisters. He never enjoyed books. His attention span might have been ten minutes and he always had to be moving! Academics were a struggle to keep him on target and performing at the same pace as others in his class. Yet he had the kindest heart and the biggest deep blue eyes, would do anything for his sisters or me, and had his own perfect strengths. Over the years, he took many things apart explaining only that he wanted to know how they were put together. (This was both funny and frustrating at times such as my sister’s bicycle and then a part on a neighbor’s truck … or their fence!) He made a wonderful bench and birdhouse for me and crafted an awesome treehouse! Given the materials, and tools to play with, he could always surprise you with something nice. It would not be exaggerating to say that anything mechanical or technical was easy for him … but requiring him to read a book and do a book report was a nightmare.

I am getting ahead of myself, I need to back up. At four, he refused to wear any dress-up clothes for pre-school pictures and donned a new blue jean jacket. It was a trivial issue, I let him choose. But as I dropped him off at preschool, he looked at me and said, “Mama from now on would you call me Sport Jet, not John Oviler, just Sport Jet.” (That wasn’t a misspelling – that was how he said his own name.) He was only a little man but had formulated in his mind how he wanted to see himself, this mama did not realize the significance until years later.

As a teenager, we struggled with things that many parents do in trying to focus on goals with him. Reflecting, I can see they were our goals, not his. We tried to help him find a trade from one of those areas where we saw his obvious strengths — certain that as parents we knew the right direction was for him. Looking back, we probably caused more problems for him than helped as his dream never wavered. If you asked him, he wanted to be a pilot. Did I doubt? Sadly knowing what it would take in self-discipline, studies and the resources available personally and locally, I did. However as he matured, and grew to be an adult, he worked hard, tirelessly and persistently – on his own – to make that dream happen. I watched him become a different student, reading BIG books and doing calculations foreign to me….I marveled….at what I was seeing.

In Joyce Meyers book, How to Succeed at Being Yourself, she asks the question:

“How can we succeed at being ourselves if we don’t know ourselves? Life is like a maze sometimes, and it is easy to get lost. Everyone it seems, expects something different from us. There is pressure coming at us from every direction to keep others happy and meet their needs.

We put a large amount of emotional and mental energy into studying the important people in our lives and trying to decide what they want from us. We then attempt to become what they want us to be. In the process, we may lose ourselves. We may fail to discover what God wants, or what His intention is for us. We may try to please everyone and yet not be pleased with ourselves.”

As a grandmother of three little boys and three little girls today, I am much more relaxed. I realize that each child has God-given talents and interests and all were never meant to be main streamed in one direction…in only one lane. I will probably always be the advocate that says, “Let’s see where their interest lies” or “How does he/she learn best?” I have always loved my children unconditionally but maybe I failed at believing unconditionally. I hope that I encourage anyone struggling with a “different kind of student”… not to lose hope … to give them time to mature…to teach by example in educating yourselves first … and most important to always stand on that sideline coaxing them forward … believing in and with them.” As Mama Sadie with her pups, few can do that as meaningfully for your babes as you can.

Today, my son, is called simply John or Daddy. He is a pilot outside of Nashville, Tenn., with certifications for three different planes and a jet contracted out daily for an interesting array of people . Am I proud? Yes, unquestionably, he always knew what he was supposed to do. He alone, figured out what it would take to make that happen and worked hard to do it. He is happy in his work.

I daresay it was God’s intention for him all along.

My shortcoming? I may have fallen down in encouraging my son to be himself … no one else. I might have even gotten in the way at times. I’m glad he followed his own inner convictions. God’s plan is so much better for him than mine.