An opportunity for kids to be published
by Christopher Cavallaro
We all want to bless our children with the best. But, what is “best”? Children, being their own, unique selves might not always unravel in the way we want or expect.
Who are these strangers running around our houses? We may have a vision of who we want our children to be —we might envision them as well-mannered and on the verge of creating that perfect moment when they announce their grades are straight As and they plan to intensify their focus and begin work on a doctorate degree, right after they earn their black belt and write a novel — at age five.
Well, maybe not.
Of course we would love for our children to grow up to be honest, kind, loving, and obedient. But what about their personalities, talents, and inclinations?
Some parents take the approach of imposing their own life paths on their children. The rule, “Our family has been in the dairy farming business for 150 years and, dadgummit, you’re going to be a dairy farmer, too!” might be well-intentioned, but it’s not the best life path for every child.
Children are like a bag of mixed seeds; spread the seeds on the ground, cover them with mulch, give them nourishment, and up come the seedlings. But, what of mixed seeds? Some grow to be flowers, some to be mighty oaks. No matter how hard we might want a flower to become an oak or an oak to become a flower, it’s impossible to defy the Grand Design.
Upon the revelation that all children are unique, how can we know their innate talents?
Do we inundate them sixteen hours a day with every possible extracurricular activity and hope that something sticks? Do we do nothing and let their spirits wander like vining weeds? Maybe the best choice is to identify their unique characteristics, and then — like plants — nurture and help them grow into the individuals God created them to be.
Here is a true story about a boy. To protect his identity, we’ll just refer to him as “boy.” In his preteen years, this particular boy had quite a habit. Every time the family was seated at the dinner table, the boy would treat the flatware as a pair of drum sticks and everything on the table around him as a drum set. This happened ritualistically until the family decided enough was enough. Believing that he was musically inclined, they decided to get him a guitar and send him to guitar lessons.
This didn’t go very well. Although they were being attentive to his talents, they overlooked what was right in front of them. He wasn’t playing air guitar at the table, he was playing drums. Not choosing to give up on music lessons, they decided to redirect and replace the guitar pursuit with a percussion pursuit. Now the boy was in his element. His newfound teacher was amazing, and the boy studied under him for several years.
The boy’s skills grew and grew. Eventually, the boy became a teenager in a band, earning money by playing weddings and bar mitzvahs. His passion remained throughout his teen years. When the time came for higher education, he was accepted at Berklee Music College. He wasn’t at Berklee very long before his talent caught the attention of a classmate who just happened to be the son of the legendary music producer, Quincy Jones. Quincy happened to be the manager of someone named Michael Jackson.
One day, Quincy found himself in a bind. Michael’s tour had gotten extended and they were going to be without a drummer for the rest of the tour. So, whom did they call? That’s right. They called the boy, who was by this time, a young man. Banging on dishes at the dinner table to touring as Michael Jackson’s drummer was an amazing leap into the man he was supposed to become.
So, just how do we figure out the best direction in life for our children?
Fortunately, there are clues. Failure leaves clues, mediocrity leaves clues, and success leaves clues. How do we see these clues early enough to embrace and nurture them?
It’s very simple. We watch. We listen. We pay attention.
What do they watch? What do they listen to? When bored in the doctor’s office sitting in front of a table of miscellaneous magazines, which one calls to them? Perhaps they pick up a copy of Scientific American or Popular Mechanics. Maybe they’ll grab Vogue or a Better Homes and Gardens. They will give us clues every day without even being aware of it. These clues are the first signs of their natural direction.
We shouldn’t expect instantaneous mastery. A master artist likely started with elementary fingerpainting — but such are the beginnings of all God-given talents.
Once we discover our children’s natural talents, think again of the flowers and the mighty oaks. We provide them sunlight, water, nutrition, and simple, tender-loving care. We encourage and train them to follow their natural growth path. We take it one step at a time. Before long, a humble beginning takes on momentum and the first baby steps have transformed into a rewarding journey.
In short, we bless. One of the simplest definitions of blessing is empower to prosper.
Can it get any simpler than that? Soul Sonshine now has an initiative to positively impact children by recognizing and applauding their accomplishments. To that end, we are undertaking an initiative called “Celebrate Young Creatives” to publish a book (or series of books) featuring the poems, stories, and artwork of students from preschool through grade 12.