My guest blogger today is my dear friend, college roommate and “soul-sister,” Jeanne Canavan. Jeanne and her husband are the proud parents of Veronica, a delightful young lady adopted from Poland several years ago, and the soon-to-be parents of Victoria, another little girl from the same orphanage. Jeanne is also the vice principal at a Catholic K-8 school in Virginia.
I asked Jeanne to write this blog post because she said something to me that I thought was worthy of every parent’s reflection. Jeanne said she believes that the particular children we have – whether biological or adopted – are given to us to heal us. We may find some aspect of our child especially difficult to deal with, especially challenging, especially annoying or especially impossible. This is probably the “part” of our child that is meant to stretch us, change us, and ultimately, as Jeanne said, heal us.
Jeanne, thank you for sharing your wisdom with us!
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June can be very challenging for families whose children begin to struggle as academic goals become more difficult and motivation to be in school decreases. Thoughts of summer fill our heads, and yet we want to diligently finish the remaining work and prepare well for the next chapter in life or at school.
At the age of seven Willard Wigan – now a world-famous artist – already hated school. He was a complete misfit there – ill-behaved, not meeting benchmarks, at times seemingly dazed and confused, at others angry and withdrawn. He just didn't fit in.
I work in a school and sometimes meet with parents whose kids don't like school, and more importantly, aren't successful there, either academically, socially or behaviorally. There is nothing like the look on the faces of a mom and dad who realize they have a long, dark road ahead: Johnny or Sue, Blaze or Tucker . . . simply do not fit the mold.
One reason it's easier for me to connect with these moms and dads is that my little girl was in that exact situation starting toward the end of kindergarten. I remember the frustration of realizing that her special needs meant that traditional settings would be very challenging for her and for us. I also remember the morning I woke up and realized that performance at school was not the “end all be all.”
I distinctly remember God's inspiration: "Think of her special need as something designed to change you and what you view as important. Your life's work, your vocation is to love her exactly as she is." That thought floored me. About me. My life's work. I couldn't imagine a more difficult task than loving my child exactly as she is.
And yet...I know and believe that God does that for me and each one of us with ease and simplicity. His love is uncomplicated, pure, discreet . . . not like mine on occasion with my daughter . . . explosive, demanding, impatient, and hurried.
"Slow down, slow down, Mom; I can't walk that fast. Slow down, slow down, Mom. I see something in the grass here. Slow down, slow down, Mom. I have a question." It seems "slow down" is God's way of taking my goals and pride out of the equation and infusing my life with His priorities.
Willard Wigan's mom was patient with him, however. It didn't bother her too much that he didn't fit in; she just wanted him to find a place where he did. When he was seven years old, Willard presented her with a tiny little town for a colony of ants to use. He had made it from matches and matchboxes.
And no, she didn't yell at him. She didn't tell him that he had made a mess. She didn't throw it away or become angry that he brought ants into the house. She simply said, "Son, you're good at this. Do this!"
And he did.
Willard is now a world-renowned miniature artist who makes art so minuscule that most of it cannot be seen with the naked eye. Some of his pieces are small enough to fit in the eye of a needle. He works in the middle of the night so that cars passing on the road do not disrupt the tiny motions of his specially designed tools.
Perhaps if his mother had not loved Willard exactly as he was in that exact moment, the world never would have seen just what wonders a small boy grown could produce.
So this summer, between helping her learn to type, or working on his gait, or driving her to algebra camp, make time in your schedule to let your kids just be. Cherish them as they are. If you feel yourself wanting them to change, instead, let them change you.