Linda and her husband, Richard, have raised nine exceptional and strong-willed children (five sons, four daughters, no twins, all genetically theirs…just to get all the questions out of the way). Linda is an accomplished author and co-founder of Joy Schools. You can learn more about Linda at ValuesParenting.

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Who is This Kid Anyway?

One of the silliest bits of “wisdom” ever imparted to parents goes like this: “Children are like lumps of clay and parents are the sculptors.” This leads parents to believe that with the proper time and influence children can be shaped into whatever parents would like them to be. What a disservice that idea is to both parents and children!

In actuality children are like seedlings. Even though tiny seedlings look very similar as they sprout, in the end they will become who they are. Some will produce flowers…sunflowers, delphiniums or snapdragons. Some will produce fruits…apples, oranges and yes, even lemons. However, how well each little seedling does in becoming its best “self” depends on the gardener giving them the appropriate light, water and fertilizer and love.

As a mother when our babies are first placed in our arms at birth we are overwhelmed with the joy and magic of this precious bundle joining our family. I like the way Anne Morrow Lindbergh describes it: “In the sheltered simplicity of the first days after a baby is born, one sees again the magical closed circle, the miraculous sense of two people existing only for each other, the tranquil sky reflected on the face of the mother nursing her child.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Times passes as does babyhood, toddler-hood and those two and three year olds that sometimes drive us over the edge. They aren’t who we thought they would be, don’t respond to the world as we would wish. Problems arise as we realized that they are not “us”! As they grow older we want them to be responsible and they can’t remember to do their jobs. They develop weird quirks and unruly behavior and are sometimes even disrespectful!

After every speech we give, we are almost attacked afterward with a group of parents who are frustrated with a child. They want their child who is more manageable, more “normal”. In probing deeper we usually find that they are just dealing with an individual who they haven’t figured out yet. When we found ourselves in this situation (which was often) we had to remind ourselves over and over again that this person was who he was and our biggest responsibility was to “watch and pray”. We need to watch our children with the specific intent of seeing who they really are and pray like crazy that we could give them what they need to succeed! What a challenge it was to try to figure out what makes them happy, sad, frustrated, delighted? Who are they really? When we figure that out and accept it, it is crucial to provide the necessary water, light, fertilizer and love to help that child become who he/she was meant to be, especially if it wasn’t what we had in mind!

Anna Quindlen said it perfectly when she wrote, “She loved and accepted her child the way he was. In a perfect world, this would be the definition of ‘parent’ in the dictionary.” After years of laying awake nights worrying that I had a prima-ballerina inside one of my children that would never be discovered since I know nothing about dance, I have realized that children will always gravitate to their passions if they are given “fertile soil”, and the encouragement they need to become who they really are.

Of course appropriate limits need to be placed on disrespect and willful bad behavior, but sometimes that comes from a lack of communication and understanding, which is our job as a parent to figure out. That’s the rub! Being ready to change ourselves is most important in the process of trying to change our children. No two children are ever exactly the same. Figuring out those differences and capitalizing on them is one of the greatest challenges of motherhood! Remember to have fun in the process! As Mark Twain said, “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”

Good luck for those of you, who like us, have kids who are really hard to figure out. Certainly we have made mistakes, but it may be comforting to hear that our most irresponsible child as far as household responsibilities and getting homework completed AND turned in is now one of the greatest 3rd grade teachers on earth…teaching those children to be responsible with not only their homework, but their lives. The child who was most whiny, now has a whiner of her own who has passed through that stage and is on to the basketball court where whining would never enter his mind. The one who never thought she had any friends is organizing the mothers of the world with CareerMother Retreats. The child who couldn’t learn to read until 7th grade has graduated from college with honors and is at the top of his game in business and life. You never know what that cry-baby, argumentative, learning disabled child will become so just keep watching and praying, fertilizing and weeding and magic happens!

Linda Eyre valuesparenting.com

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