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SkyMoms > Parenting Tips

Have You Invited Your Kids Into A Story That Matters?

What does it take to be a great parent?
This was the question that had my husband and me on the edge of our seats at Parent Night five years ago. I would have guessed a handful of things, but I never would have guessed this:

“Know and embrace your child’s ‘now,’” our headmaster said.

I didn’t understand what he meant, but he explained that a “now” is that thing we care deeply about. That thing which lights us on fire and gives us purpose. That thing in which we want to invest and be good. If we dig deep, all of us have one and so do our kids. He explained that if we wanted to be great parents, we would be about the business of learning, embracing, and supporting each of our children’s now.

It sounds simple. But as our kids are growing in their individualism, we’re learning it’s easier said than done. That’s probably why our headmaster chose to speak about it to a group of eager parents at the beginning of a new school year.

I think embracing our child’s “now” can be tough for at least two reasons.

If our child’s now is different than our own, the possibility exists that we aren’t good at it, we aren’t comfortable with it, or we don’t like it. Sometimes, our child’s “now” is way outside our comfort zone and forces us to stretch. So instead of helping them develop their own “now,” we make the mistake of forcing our “now” upon them.

I was a dancer, gymnast, and cheerleader growing up. These activities were my world. I loved them and dedicated most of my time outside school to being good at them. So when I had a daughter, I assumed she would also be into those things.

Turns out, she isn’t.

Instead, she wants to participate in theater, swimming, and band. And while theater isn’t all too unfamiliar, anything I’ve learned about competitive swimming or playing an instrument, I’ve learned through trial and error as we’ve helped her find her way. Similarly, because I can’t draw my way out of a paper bag, I don’t enjoy art. Supporting our oldest son as he explores his creativity through art is an area where I need to grow.

I think embracing our child’s “now” is also tough because, sometimes, it goes against cultural norms. I know all kids are “out of the box” in their own way, but for some, it’s more obvious than others. This is certainly the case for our risk-averse, hater-of-the-spotlight, artsy and musically gifted son. He’s been playing team sports since he was four, but none of us are quite sure team sports are for him.

As he’s getting older, we’re noticing how different he is than most of the boys in his grade. He doesn’t like to roughhouse or wrestle. At recess, he generally won’t mix it up on the field. And he’s less aggressive and less driven in athletics. He may be a late bloomer like his dad, but team sports may also not be his thing.

I wish I could say I was 100% comfortable with this possibility. But, I’ll confess I’m not. Not because I need him to play sports to fulfill some unmet need in my own life, but because I know navigating his peer relationships as he gets older might be simpler if he shared in this common interest in the area where we live. It’s just easier to fit in when we’re mainstream. And where we live? Sports are mainstream.

But we aren't called to fit in, nor are we called to be mainstream. Instead, we're called to live fully into the design God has for us.  For some, mainstream activities like sports is part of that design. For others, it's not.

As parents, it’s our job to help our children discover God’s design for their lives. This includes helping them to identify their gifts and talents, to elevate their strengths, and to refine their weaknesses. It also involves nurturing their “now(s)” along the way.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this as we’re making plans for summer. So after church on Sunday, we had family lunch at a local deli and began a conversation. Gathered around the table eating paninis and sipping iced tea, each of our kids shared one thing inside of school and one thing outside of school that is deeply important to them. Using their answers, we’re going to set some goals and offer them a challenge. Because I believe that if we can pair their passions with some of our own expectation, we just might invite them into a story that matters.

I’d invite your family to do the same!