Sunday, July 20, 2008

Now, THAT Was an Eye-Opening Exercise!!!

The blog just before this one was suggested as a writing exercise, so I "went for it," LIVE, on my blog, not even knowing where it would take me.

To carry out the exercise, I thought about the timeline of my life until 1967 and remembered the events -- personal and national -- that transpired. (From a childhood as a Shirley Temple-type "sparkler" to a painfully shy, almost catatonic ten year old because my parents inappropriately "corrected" me in a way that made me think there was something intrinsically wrong with a kid who "sparkled," non-stop, in all kinds of circumstances.)

It amazes me, from this vantage point, that I didn't figure out (as a kid) why I was alternately so afraid and so depressed. The world seemed to be spinning completely out of control, and no one seemed able (or willing) to either explain it or fix it.

And whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd say, "A writer or comedienne..." and people would look at me as if I had three heads! This sad, timid, sometimes morose wallflower wanted to be OUT IN THE WORLD MAKING A BIG NOISE?! How could that be? And how impossible, besides!

It's absolutely no wonder I was such a mess. I wanted to be an entertainer and my parents had somehow made me feel ashamed of it.

And the very thought of having to fit in with the 9-to-5 crowd or with the stay-at-home, married-with-three-kids crowd -- most of whom seemed happy enough, back then -- depressed me even more. While I certainly honored everyone who could live and work in those realms, I didn't want to be married (I'd never seen a good marriage at that point, and haven't seen all that many since), or have kids, or be a teacher or a nurse or a bank teller. In fact, I couldn't find a single "normal" job -- in all the looking I did -- that I knew would satisfy the part of me that wanted (and wants) life to be "worth" all the trials and tribulations it takes to stay alive.

I just took a career test in a book called HOW'D YOU SCORE THAT GIG? The results pegged me exactly: creative/nurturer. Uh-huh. Yep. You got it.

Only thing is, most nurturers don't do well in the spotlight, and certainly very few nurturers aspire to a spotlight unless it's pretty certain that the additional attention will contribute significantly to their cause (e.g, Mother Teresa, ML King, Jr., Gandhi, even Jesus).

While I rarely seek out attention -- trained as I was to be "seen but not heard"-- I do surprisingly well on the rare occasions when I'm in the spotlight. That's owing to the native (undamaged, un-corrected) "sparkler" in me. She's as much a part of me as my red hair (or what used to be red hair) and blue eyes. She's the one who was born on March 5, 1951, before the world began to shape what she would think of herself for much of the rest of her life.

Perhaps this is simply a cautionary tale to parents: It's important to parent with an eye on WHO your child is at his or her core, rather than on what you want him or her to become. How many parents have given birth to a little stranger and, instead of watching what kind of personality would develop, and encouraging all the good that's in it, decided to raise a clone-kid: someone quiet and centered like us; or a jock like us, or a scholar like us, or a ...

Each child has a gift that can bless the world. God blesses each of us with a gift and with a passion for the gifting. He doesn't leave any of us out in this regard.

Allow your child's gift to develop by feeding the passion he or she has, not the passion you have for the child. There are no cookie-cutter kids and there are no clones (at least not yet in the human realm) (And even cloned animals don't behave exactly like their progenitor, because circumstances differ during the raising of a clone.)

The world is ready for the gift of your child, or God wouldn't have given him or her to you. Don't excitedly unwrap it and then decide to preempt the personality you find just because it doesn't look or act or think the way you do. You're a steward of that little bundle, not its Creator. God knows what He's doing. Trust Him.

Let your child grow into something amazing... unexpected... miraculous... and whole! No one should feel they've "missed out" on who they should have been. No one should feel like a fraud as a grown-up, or at any time.

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I never realized, before writing the last post, how unutterably sad I would feel for that little sixteen year old girl, forty one years after the fact. She deserved better. She deserved someone who listened to her and gave her heart and her dreams some serious consideration and mountains of encouragement.

Oh, she eventually got what she needed -- from actors and writers who took her under their wings as a young adult. But had her mom and dad encouraged her as a kid, there's just no telling how much farther along she'd be today...

Believing in yourself is not just an inside job. People on the outside -- especially parents, teachers, grandparents, and other significant folks -- can make a huge difference in how soon the "Aha!" moment occurs and settles in with a child, sending him or her sallying forth, with unquenchable enthusiasm and desire, to claim what's waiting at the end of his or her rainbow... right where God placed it to be found by one special kid.


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