Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wrapped Gift Post

I often wish that people would say "good job" or some other words of encouragement to me as often as I offer them up to my boys. 

"Nice snag, Zack."

"Great pass, Nick."

"This is a beautiful picture of, uh, the inside of a bird."*

"Thanks for reminding me that everything will be alright."

"Wow, you read that all in one day?  Nice job, Nicholas."

"You opened that new track on Mario Kart without any help?  Good job, Zack."

"Why yes, I do like your bunny magician and his hamster assistant, Zachary."*

"This is a great poem, Nick.  Really great."

And it is a great poem.  Here is the original rough draft (the last line is on the back, which I forgot to scan):

 Here is the way he submitted it to his editor teacher:

This is what I did with it, so he could take it back to school:

When I was in my twenties I tried to write a few poems, I even made a little booklet of them (it seemed important at the time), I remember thinking:  how hard could it be?

Here is one of the drafts I found in an old file drawer:

Yeah... his is better.

Which, for once, brings me to my point.  I wonder what I should be encouraging.  I mean, what if someone had encouraged me to continue writing poems, which I had secretly been doing since I was fourteen or fifteen probably?  Would I have majored in poetry?  Would I have had a successful career as a poet making dozens of thousands of dollars a year?  Perhaps I would have?  But, I wasn't really very good, was I?

As an adolescent and teen what was encouraged in me was my athletic ability in, of all things, football.  People told me I was good, encouraged me, supported me and, well, I didn't really care about football.  By the last year I played, my Junior year of high school, I pretty much hated it and was doing it only because my friends still were.  So, I was good but I didn't really want to do it anymore.

My senior year of high school, I was cast as the lead in "Our Town" and I was excited.  Up until this point, I'd been able to play ball and be in the play which rehearsed later in the evenings and ball practice was directly after school.  However, this role was big and there was a lot to do and, I wanted to do it.  I quit football, much to Coach Funk's surprise, and hardly ever picked up a ball for thirty years.

No one as much said to me "you have a gift" for football or for acting or poetry or singing or, as I look back on it, much of anything.  And, I am glad for that.

People encouraged me, mind you, but no one specifically called me out on one particular skill or gift.

A better blogger than I, Rachel, at Hands Free Mama, recently wrote a post called "Voicing the Gift" in which she eloquently extols the positive impact which telling a child they have a gift can have on that child.  A specific gift.  Their special talent.  It's a beautifully written piece, as all her posts are, and I could not argue the impact that she made on the children she mentions.

It certainly made me think, which I have done, and, I've decided I don't want to do that for my children.

Not because I don't see their special talents.  Not because I don't want them to be something I could encourage them to be; be it artist, actor, singer, sage.  Not because I fear for them the road they might have to travel to use their gifts.  Not because I don't think they should be anything they want to be.

No, honestly, I am afraid I'll get it wrong.  Just as folks would have been wrong to discern that football or poetry was my gift, I am afraid I'll point them down the wrong path, away from their passion, away from their heart.

For some of us, determining our gifts and talents is a life-long endeavor, a journey of meandering hopes and dreams, fraught with missed turns and missed opportunities.  I would say that, as I write these words, I am still not sure what my gift may be, or yours, or my boys.  I feel that it simply must bubble up from within them, within me; I feel they must find their own paths; I feel I must show them this life, point out their talents, and leave it up to them; I feel that it must be a decision they make.

You know what?  I am probably wrong.  Probably... but I'm going with my gut on this one.


*Here is the drawing.  From what I gathered from Zack, the image on the left is the insides and that sort of exploded view there on the right is the skeletal system.  If you look closely, through the guts and gizzards and intestines and such, you will see... a little heart-shaped heart.  God, I love them...

*This is Niglee, the aforementioned Bunny Magician.  He's supposed to make the cake float but has only managed to levitate himself.  There is a platform for the hamster.

Maybe my gift is these words to you, perhaps Zack will learn anatomy and Nick will chase words.  The blogger, the butcher and the dream chaser.  I just don't have enough to go on.

Thanks for stopping by today.

From Marci's  "...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat..."

Mom:  "Boys, stop hitting each other."

Boys:  "But we're ninjas."

Mom:  "You can be ninjas without hitting each other all the time."

Boys:  "But then what would we do with our ninja skills?  Open a lemonade stand?"

... yes we have embraced sarcasm...

I really shouldn't call him out but, Nick said it...


  1. Well written and thought through. I commend you

  2. First, I must say I am struck by your son's poem. It is a beautiful and insightful perspective. It is a good day when the sun shines through the trees and through the winds. I will remember his lovely wisdom.

    Second, I commend you for following your heart on this parenting journey. In our society, it is so easy to start second guessing ourselves when deep down our gut knows--knows what we feel is right for ourselves and our particular child. A few years ago, I started listening more to my heart and my gut than I did to the "experts" when it came to raising my children. That's when the pressure decreased and the living increased. My children continually amaze me, inspire me, and teach me when I sit back and let them live and go where their hearts lead them. And when they find something that makes their face light up, I encourage them. It would go against every grain in my body not to, for being an encourager is one of my God-given gifts. And I don't know where I would be without the encouragement I received throughout my life.

    Thank you for sharing your heart and wisdom. It never fails to be refreshing and inspiring.


  3. That's pretty great, that heart-shaped heart.

    It's an interesting idea, how a "gift" is found and nurtured. I watched a documentary at the Banff Mountain Film Festival last week, about a mid-twenties kid named Alex Honnold (says the guy who's not yet thirty) who is a genius of rock climbing. Ever since he was a little kid, he'd be climbing on things. And today, he's breaking records left and right, been featured in Time Magazine for free soloing up El Cap in record time, etc. His great, unique ability is that he does not fear falling. So he does stuff that no one else can force themselves to do. He'll probably die on a cliff, maybe sooner rather than later. I wonder if his "gift" really was just for climbing, or if the climbing was just a symptom of his gift.

    I don't think I'm trying to make a point, I just started thinking as I was typing, and I'm still thinking.