To follow up to Part I on Being Who We Are Meant to Be, the emotions of the things written below is where it all originally stemmed from. And to clarify, I’m referring to strengths as the natural gifts inside us, the ones that energize us and set us apart. The blend of strengths is unique to each one of us as well as the purpose behind them. They make up the core of who we are when all distractions are taken away. Those strengths can be used to move mountains when positively cultivated, but can also be the source of demise if not properly nurtured.
Every single day, I tell my children the strengths that I see in them. As they get older and understand more, I plan to ask them what they think their strengths are and to repeat those verbatim, so they know how proud they should be of them as well.
I want to protect the strengths in my children and give them the opportunities they need to grow them, to teach them how important it is to hold on to them and to recognize the importance of safeguarding them, no matter the influences from other people or things. Strengths are unique. They make everyone a little different in beautiful ways.
Right now we are going through some evaluations for our almost-three-year-old that has me wondering, “Why are we trying to make kids exactly like every other kid?” I understand the purpose of milestones, I understand that there’s a general gauge of development, I understand the importance to function cognitively in all the basics such as reading, writing, math, communication, etc., but I also think that we are lowering the age for high expectations and forgetting the fact that our kids do not get to be kids for many years of their lives.
It’s also wholly conflicting when we are setting these expectations, yet at the same time, there’s so much negative talk about “generations today” or “kids today”. So why are we trying to make our kids be like every other kid? Shouldn’t we be celebrating what makes them, them? Shouldn’t we be fostering their individual God-given strengths instead of trying to make them perfect at every single thing that doesn’t even determine their overall success in life?
My toddler has some speech delays and since we know it’s nothing permanent, I’m fully cognizant of how this is going to be such a small little blip on the grander scale of things. We may remember the speech therapy, but we won’t remember the stressing and wondering and frustration that can come along with those delays. But what WILL make the most impact during this time, is how we treat him during it all. And that’s where my frustration arises from some of the evaluations that are automatically connected with speech delays. Are we making him feel inadequate? Are we making him feel different in a wrong way? Are we making him feel like he needs to be someone else other than who he is?
He is regularly called shy like it’s a bad thing. Yes, he’s a little introverted. Yes, he’s going to be the kid that stands off to the side. Yes, he will never be the first to dive headfirst into what all the other kids are doing. But he’s also the kid who will be the first to grab another kid’s hand, to share his food with them, to pat their back if they are crying. He is incredibly observant, aware, empathetic, and fiercely loving to those he trusts. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Plus, here’s the most obvious thing to me: he has characteristics shared between both his dad and mom. How else did we expect him to turn out? And do we really want him to be like anyone else? No. No. No. That kid is ours, it shows, and we will continue to provide the tools to help him grow and learn from the things that make him HIM. And we will teach him to be humbly proud and confident about the things that make him HIM, no matter what anyone else says.
Is there any question as to why so many kids struggle with their identity later on? Is it a wonder why kids don’t know who they indeed are or what they want to be? Why can’t we let kids be kids for a while? Especially when THIS is the time that they are in tune with the things that make them happy like their natural strengths should do. Why are we taking this time away from them?
My toddler may not be the one that’s out there socializing with everyone right away; he may not be talking up a storm; he may not be the first to act; he may not be the one that everyone understands right away.
But I am so proud of the fact that he’s a little different, that he observes before he acts, that he has a heart of gold, that he is just a little bit shy and wary of new people, that he gets inside his own head, that he has an incredible imagination, and that he understands the range of emotions in himself and other people. He will be an incredible friend and someday, become a fantastic leader.
I am fiercely protective of keeping the goodness inside of my toddler and not letting anyone tell him he must be someone other than who he is. I only pray that he will find a tribe of friends early in life who embrace who he is as well as who they are. Because I know that as much as I may be able to instill all the confidence in him and support him, that tribe of his someday will be what helps him through some of the situations in life that mama or dada just won’t have the same influence with.
I am so fortunate to have a mother who recognized my strengths early and remains my biggest cheerleader to this day, the handful of teachers that helped foster my strengths throughout the years, and the tribe of weird friends that love me for me and encourage me every single day.
It took me way too long to realize that I’m thoroughly happy being different, so it’s something that I desperately wish for my kids to learn early in life. Don’t be what people are expecting you to be; be who you are meant to be.