Discovering Your Child’s Talent, Or My Dying Korean Lilac
Here it is, 2:19 am. The dilemma of sleep challenges!
It was light’s out last night at 9:30 pm for me. I was so tired! My thoughts before going to bed? “For sure I am going to sleep longer tonight!” I start to wake to the need to go to the bathroom but resist the effort. I want to see if I can get back into sleep, to stay in that wonderful land of being relaxed and unaware of my thoughts…
I look at my phone (my clock): 2:00 am exactly. Are you kidding?!
I go to the bathroom and come back, all in the dark but wishing it were darker somehow so that I wouldn’t be so awake. But would that really change the way my mind is AWAKE? 🙂 It seems like when my mind is relaxed it doesn’t matter if it’s light or not. I just seem to be able to sleep.
I decide to pray about it. I have had so much on my mind lately, so much crammed into our family’s lives, the way it always is–not a complaint, because I love it! But there is always so much to think about…
I decide to pray and talk it through with Heavenly Father. Let’s see. I start by going over my day yesterday. What was good? What did I nurture? Which children’s needs did I meet? How did I take care of my daughter who was sick? Did I meet her needs? I mentally review the day. The waffle dinner: that was fun. I was so tired, but the waffles were so easy to make. I loved the pancake mix from the cannery that I used for the first time. Good stuff! My girls who love cooking jumped in to wash and slice up strawberries, and Eliza was excited to learn how to whip the whipping cream. We were ready for dinner in short order! “We should do this every Friday night!” I thought.
I remember watching part of the TED video with my sick daughter, who was eating her bagel lunch at the time. When the woman held up the human brain with the spinal cord attached, it was too much for her. She was grossed out; I was fascinated! “WOW!” I had thought. “DISGUSTING!” she had thought. “Can we watch something else?” she had asked. I laughed.
Eliza and I had gone to Costco to pick up the strawberries and my oldest daughter from work. We had found flowers for planting today in the flower garden. Thinking of those flowers I remembered the miniature Korean lilac tree that appears to bed dead in my front flower garden. I wonder what to do with it. I wonder if it is planted in the wrong place, or if I didn’t nurture it sufficiently.
And then it occurs to me: this is one of the ways we know, when it comes to talent discovery and development, if an activity or a setting we have chosen for our children (or that they have chosen) to do is right for them. Are they flourishing? Are they happy and blossoming in this setting?
The image of the gardener (the Lord of the vineyard) and his servant in Jacob 5 comes to mind: they are pruning, digging about the tree, fertilizing it. And depending upon the performance of the tree, the gardener (the Lord of the vineyard) converses with his helper (his servant) about what needs to happen to help this tree bring forth good fruit.
The gardener asks the servant questions: Didn’t I plant this tree in a good spot of ground? Didn’t I prune it, and dig around it, and fertilize it? He asks his servant these rhetorical questions.
Here’s what’s interesting to me about this allegory: We know the Lord of the Vineyard represents the Savior, and the servant represents his prophet. We know the Lord is omnipotent and omniscient, so he already knows the answers to these questions. Obviously the questions must be a kind of exercise for his servant to understand something about the gardening process. He reviews the process over and over, depending on how the tree responds to the pruning, the digging, the fertilizing, and the grafting.
It is a grand experiment!
Parenting is a grand experiment for us, not for God! He knows what He is doing because He has done this over and over and over again. How much experience has He had with how many of HIs children that have been born on this earth?
We are the gardeners, the servants. If we are trying to figure out: should my child do music? should she do art? should I sign him up for this soccer team again? Then I think we can remember how the Lord asks His servant what he has done to nurture the tree. Has the tree been sufficiently nurtured? If so, how is the tree producing? I think the questions we can ask ourselves are the same ones that the Lord of the vineyard asks his servant: Is the tree bringing forth fruit? Or in other words, is this child happy doing this? Is she learning? Am I sufficiently nurturing this child to know if this activity is “a good spot of ground?” In other words, did I support my child enough to know if it’s the activity or lack of support that is causing this response?
I notice that when my children are enjoying something, I don’t have to force them to do it. It’s not rocket science. My daughter is taking dance, and 24 hours before her dance class was to begin, she had her dance clothes laid out on her bed with a note on top! OK, someone is loving this spot of ground!
That isn’t to say that some activities that are absolutely necessary for our children they don’t fight it tooth and nail. It doesn’t mean we only have our children do what they love. I’m reminded of Julie B. Beck’s conversation with her daughters and her recounting how she spent hours, days, weeks, and years with a daughter who resisted piano practicing. She was the most challenging of Julie’s children to practice, until one day she discovered that she actually liked piano! She loved it! And she took off from there and went to town with it.
And how do we know if we are sufficiently nurturing a child? Sometimes it’s easy to see if our child is being sufficiently nurtured because they are happy and at peace. We see it in their smile, in their energy, in their manner. They are alive! Other times we see that they seem, like some of my houseplants get because I forget to water them, to be wilting. They are continuously tired, cranky, easily upset and easily annoyed. What is missing? Is this just a developmental change? Is there something going on physiologically? Or are they needing more TLC, more one-on-one time with Mom or Dad? More sleep? Eating right? More physical activity? More sunshine?
My friend mentioned to me this week how her 6 year old daughter is NOT taking dance next year! She explained that her daughter told her she is not taking dance. “They know what they want, don’t they?” I think it’s true that our children today, with their amazing spirits, can help us discover what they need to do and how they need to be nourished by telling us directly. Boy, it’s nice when that happens!
Listening to The Spark, I’m hearing story after story of such evidence for this whole situation. Kristine (the mother) knows when a situation is right for Jake (her son) because of his responses. If he is talking, engaged, interacting with others, happy, they are on track. If he is regressing, drifting, pulling inward, showing more autistic behaviors, then something is missing.
The interesting thing about nurturing is that is isn’t a static activity. It takes lots of work and observation. It is never finished! A plant that as once blooming and “happy” starts to decay and die back. We have to evaluate/discover: is it the plant’s natural cycle? Are there bugs eating it? Is it getting too much sun or too much water? The ground too hard?
Yesterday afternoon when my sick daughter was bored of an entire day of reading (and the ibuprofen hadn’t kicked in), she asked if she could watch something on Netflix. So we turned on the computer and started searching for a show. We came upon “The Nanny,” a reality TV show that shows British nannies going to help families that are out of control. We started watching an episode. It was all chaos and contention and mess everywhere. Well, it doesn’t take a nanny to see that there are some basics missing. When Dad is hanging out watching hours of TV for hours and mom is sitting on the couch watching them and calling out instructions to her little children (I think they were 2 and 4 years old), you can see an obvious fix: Get up and go to work! Help your children! Teach them! Then they won’t be out of control because you are doing what you are supposed to do: nurturing! I couldn’t watch it for more than a few minutes: so much yelling and mess and chaos! Yikes! Those poor children and those poor parents! They simply lacked family education and training! Haven’t we all been in their shoes in one way or another?! I am happy that family could get some help figuring out what they needed do to return peace and order to their home.
I really like the Lord’s directions: Wherefore, go thy way; watch the tree, and nourish it, according to my words (Jacob 5:12). God teaches us how to nourish our children no matter what their talents and abilities!
Well, that’s enough connections for now. I think I’m going to get back to talking with Heavenly Father again to see if I can let go of these thoughts and relax my mind enough to get back to sleep. I am so thankful to know–and if I could just remember this for a minute, maybe I can put my mind on rest mode again–that He has the experience and answers I am looking for, and that he will help me figure it all out, one day at a time.
Happy Sleeping (hope I can!),