I remember when I was in middle school and I told my parents that I wanted to swim year round. The team was not close by, so my mom drove me almost forty minutes to practice and an hour later forty minutes back home. Every single night she did this for a week until I said it was too much for me. Not once did she complain, however. My brother has similar stories about being carted around for swim team and I was likely the only complainer, being forced against my will to go to his out out-of-town swim meets and swim practices at 4 o’clock in the morning.
As a preteen I remember saying that I wanted to play the flute. After much shopping around, my dad gave me my flute. At almost 20 years old I was pining for a guitar, and I received my first acoustic guitar that Christmas. And just last week, at 38 years old, my mom handed me an accordion – an instrument I’ve wanted for over ten years.
I don’t share these things to reveal the level of spoiled that I am (although I just might be, slightly), because growing up we didn’t go regularly on vacations; we didn’t have designer clothes, we didn’t have hot lunches, we didn’t get everything (or sometimes even exactly the same thing) on our Christmas lists, and we didn’t eat out regularly. My folks cut a lot of corners in certain areas of life to allow for spending money in other areas of life and a large part of that was to encourage and support their children in their natural talents and interests.
There was a level of respect and fairness, I think, in my brother and my requests. I wasn’t asking to be on every single sport team and play every single instrument. In turn, my folks were not pressing me to do anything I did not want to do either. I wasn’t being forced to play sports I was not interested in (which is why I only played basketball and softball one year), I was not being asked to play instruments I wasn’t interested in and I wasn’t being pushed too hard through any of it to make me lose my own passion and drive to succeed at it in my own time. … in God’s time.
I keep this scripture in my back pocket at all times:
Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. – Colossians 3:21
Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4
If at 13, when I told my parents I was done playing the piano (after taking lessons for eight years) I was told I could not quit I likely would not be still fiddling with it today. If, at about that same age, I was told that I WOULD swim year round regardless of the sacrifices I would have to make in friendships or my schoolwork, I likely would have hated physical exercise at all as I got older.
And on the flip side, if I was never encouraged to get a new instrument to learn or a book about a different language to read, I am of the belief that my learning in life would be finished once I graduated from school. … I may never have known the genuine happiness in transcribing music pieces onto paper and learning them on a different instrument, I would never know the joy of singing along with my children, I would never know the excitement in hearing my children learn the instruments too.
When my mom retells the story about me opening up the accordion at their home, she says that I looked like a child at Christmas. I even think my children may have heard me curse, unfortunately, as I think “HOLY $HIT!” fell out of my mouth. I couldn’t help it. I was overjoyed.
More than the gifting, more than accolades on any one of my abilities, more than anything… I’m happy and blessed that in my mid-life my mother still knows what it is that will make my heart leap and desires to do nearly anything to make that happen. I am proud to have her blood run through my veins and hope that I am as intuitive to my own children as she has always been with us.