Our oldest is a wonderfully kind, sensitive, caring, and friendly person. Actually, they all are. We’re blessed with some pretty cool kids (if I do say so myself).
Kids they are, though. And kids are funny.
Kids do funny things and behave in unique ways.
Adults tend to accept kids’ behaviors because being a kids is all about learning. Depending on their ages and their lived experiences most kids don’t know about or understand the nuances of social norms in the ways most adults do.
Being a kid affords you lots of leeway. You can run around tackling siblings and friends in public, you can pitch a fit when you don’t get another piece of chocolate, you can flop on the floor and thrash around pretending to be a giant worm or a snake who ate some really spicy food, and you can burp the alphabet at the dinner table.
These behaviors, while not necessarily desirable in all settings and at all times, and sometimes frustrating for adults, can also be wonderfully endearing and even magically surprising.
Sometimes, standing back and watching kids be who they are is overwhelmingly joyful. Have you ever heard tears back while watching your child be just who he or she is? Kids are each unique, and when they feel enough comfort and freedom to be their unique selves, it’s quite a thing.
So, our oldest, along with kind, sensitive, caring, and friendly, is a funny kid.
When he’s silly and goofy at home his expressions are clever and entertaining.
He really blossoms in the living room around bedtime, putting on shows, cracking us up with his improvisations, and making us laugh with funny faces and silly dances.
Until recently this display of his unique personalty was mostly relegated to the living room. Sometimes we see it surface with family and friends in other settings, but he does a good job coding into a more refined version of himself in crowds.
A few weeks ago he came into our bedroom on a lazy Saturday morning and announced that he was going to audition for the talent show.
When I suggest that he does a good job coding into a more refined version of himself for crowds I mean this is a kid who not to long ago didn’t want to be picked for magic acts or share time in class. We’d kind of slotted him into the shy, behind the scenes category. We labeled him a background kind of kid. Turns out we don’t know as much as we thought.
Parenting note to self: don’t label them as anything…let them surprise you around every turn. They will.
We were thinking he might be considering playing piano or even going up on stage and reading for a few minutes. Something that he does well and practices a lot. We were thinning wrong.
Our mistakenly categorized shy, behind the scenes kid announced that he was going to write and perform a ventriloquism, stand up comedy act. And guess what, that’s just what he did.
His voice. An amazing voice. A clever and creative voice. A considerate, friendly, curious, thoughtful and caring voice was ready to be on display for the world.
In front of hundreds of hits peers, their families and friends, and the staff of his school, this courageous kid took the mike, and friends, our boy tore that room up!
He stayed with the script he’d written for a moment, but then something incredible happened (as if what we were witnessing wasn’t incredible enough). He looked around the room, took a breath, looked at his dragon puppet, and then launched into his signature living room improvisation.
He totally went for it. Not only did he go for it, but he stuck with it. He stuck with it until the crowed completely suspended any disbelief and settled into his brand of silly. He made it happen!
They believed the dragon puppet had a personality, they believed in the slightly strained relationship he had developed with the dragon, they believed the dragon was a ham and the kids was trying to rein him in. My wife and I believed it. We all laughed, we all clapped, and we all cheered.
This kid skipped off stage and all the way back to class with a huge, well deserved smile on his face! My wife and I kvelled. Still kveelling.
I don’t know what he was more excited about, the action or the reaction.
I don’t know how the experience has, and will continue impacting his life.
I don’t know if he’ll ever go on stage again or if this was a thing he needed to do for another reason, leading him along another path on which the feeling of envisioning, deciding, developing, demonstrating, adapting, and enlisting the courage to overcome will come in handy.
It doesn’t seem to matter what will happen next. I’m confident that this powerful thing happened for a reason. He made it happen for a reason. Maybe that reason is only for him to understand.
It came as a surprise to us. A wonderful, beautiful, joyful surprise.
I wonder if rather than working to carve any particular path for the kids or push them in any direction, we might serve them best by standing by them with support and encouragement for any direction they decide to go in, whether or not we understand it, could have predicted it, or had hoped for it.
There are so many twists and turns. A parent’s heart is pushed and pulled in all kinds of directions.
The fact is, we don’t know a whole bunch of stuff that might be nice to know as we try so desperately to protect our precious children from life’s trials and tribulations.
Maybe the best we can do is support with open hearts and minds as their lives unfold.
Maybe if we model passion, courage, and faith, they might learn to navigate from places where their own truths speak to and guide them along the way.
Maybe if we find the strength to simply love and let go we’re on the right track.
It ain’t easy, but when it clicks it’s so very, very good. Humbling, confusing, exhilarating, mystifying…and good.
In it together for the kids!
Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.