Friday, April 27, 2012

Who Needs Talent Anways?

A few months ago, I was really struggling with my lack of "gifts". Some people have been blessed with a beautiful voice, musical talent, or maybe they are able to work magic with a camera.  Then there are others who run marathons, have the gift of teaching, or those who can garden, cook and/or bake. Or there's people like my husband who can build something just by seeing a picture and fix almost anything that needs fixing. Now, that is a valuable talent around our house! However, none of these skills seem to be my area of expertise. The only time I  sing in front of others is at church because it's so loud that no one else can hear me and God doesn't care that I can't carry a tune to save my life. Musical talent....nada, I learned how to read music in college because I was forced  to in order to pass a class and I can't remember any of it now. I am unable to  run a block without running out of breath, and we all know where my cooking and baking skills stand. Gardening, well let's just say that I have one plant in my home and it appears to be alive..... on most days. With hard work and when I apply myself I can be an effective teacher. However, I wouldn't say it is my natural god given gift like I truly believe it is for some.

I was struggling because my "gifts" just didn't seem obvious.  I didn't want to be really great at something so people would notice. It had absolutely nothing to do with wanting others to say, "Hey, you're really good at ......." .  I just wanted to have something to contribute to others. It was more about simply wanting to use what natural abilities I had been given in order to make a difference. I know it sounds corny but I swear it's true.

This constant focus on me analyzing my so called natural  "gifts" caused me to feel a little depressed.  It is human nature to want to be naturally good at things.  Okay, so maybe it's not human nature but it is MY nature.  I kept telling my husband how I felt. He, of course, being a man wanted to solve my problem. I just wanted to vent and he just wanted me to make it better. He would try to encourage me to get involved in things or he would say,  "You're good at lots of things."  Although, when I asked him to name them, he really couldn't come up with anything specific. I remember once he said I was good at saving money and using coupons. Seriously? Not really what I wanted to hear. Even if it's true, how is using coupons and saving money helping anybody?

But like so many other times my big aha moments do not come from adults.  Instead  my  little lightbulbs are often times turned on by my children.  My oldest son had overheard this conversation between my husband and I on more than one occassion. After overhearing us talk, he  came up to me and said something that really changed the way I was looking at the situation. And all he said was, " Mom, you're good at anything you want to be good at."

".......good at anything you want to be good at." Not only was his answer simple, he was more right then he could even possibly know. For whatever reason, I don't have a lot of natural talent in any specific area. However, I have the strong will and determination to figure out how to be good at something if I want it bad enough. When I decide to do something, I will figure out a way and I will learn everything so that I can do it well. I've been a good student all my life and I guess that hasn't changed. When we found out our littlest guy had a peanut allergy, I learned everything I could about it so that we could keep him safe. I consider it my duty to keep those around him knowledgeable so that  he is not at risk for a reaction. I keep myself current on new laws, foods, and other current events related to his allergy. I am good at......protecting him and keeping him safe (well at least when it comes to his allergy.....).  Sixteen months ago, I decided I wanted to be home with my kids and I wasn't enjoying my job. So I learned how to budget effectively and taught myself how to use coupons.  Prior to this, I had never used a budget or cut a coupon. I am good at ......using coupons, I save us about 200$ a month.  During the last few months, I became ill for quite awhile. I know nothing about eating healthy, I despise vegetables, and I had a serious diet coke addiction. However, I am learning how to be a healthier person so that I can give my immune system the boost that it needs.  I am now good at.......eating healthy. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate cooking with a passion. However, part of getting myself healthy involved getting my family healthy as well. I have cooked almost every day for the last two weeks and each meal turned out edible. I can't really say I'm "good at" cooking but I can say I am good at......providing healthy meals for my family.

So does this mean that I am so awesome because I learned how to do all of these things? No. I think the most important thing I got from this was that I'm not super naturally talented at anything in particular. But somewhere along the way I may have taught my children that you can be good at anything that you put effort into. If you care enough, take the time, and work hard enough you can learn how to do something well. So I hope that as I am forced to learn how to do new things, my children will watch. I hope they take notice that I struggle, it doesn't come easy, but in the end it's worth it!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dysfunctional IS Functional

I am not sure where this topic came from. Not exactly what I thought I'd be writing about after being sick for almost 6 weeks. However, healing comes in many forms and I think recently I'm extremely grateful and proud for the part of my background that is "dysfunctional".

Sometimes parenting can feel like you're suffocating from all the decisions that need to be made. It is so easy to become consumed by wanting to make the right decisions for our children. There are so many decisions we encounter on a daily basis and the decision making starts from before they're even born; to nurse or not to nurse, to spank or not to spank, to push academics young or to let them learn through "play", engage them in afterschool activities but how much is too much, forcing them to eat healthy foods or not forcing them in fear of creating eating disorders, giving them what they want without spoiling them while teaching them to work hard and earn the things that  they want......I'm sure you can add pages to this list. But truly, all most parents want is to raise happy and well balanced children who grow up into caring and productive young adults who contribute to society and are able to have healthy relationships. Sounds easy enough, right? ........Not quite. So see with all of the pressure and decision making to be done, we're bound to screw it up. It's just human nature. I have settled with the fact that I will mess up, make wrong decisions, and think that I am acting in the best "interest" of my children only to still make the wrong choice.

In addition to making all of the "right" choices, I think parents are trying hard to create "perfect" childhoods. It seems as if we want to expose our children to as much as possible. So sometimes that includes vacations we can not afford, unnecessary materialistic items, sports activities that consume family's lives, and so forth. Many people are trying to fix what was wrong in their own childhoods through their own children. This is not an insult. I'm completely guilty. I have parts of my childhood that I would never want my children to experience and of course I want to do everything in my power to protect them from reliving the pain that I experienced.   It is only a parent's natural instinct to want to  protect our children from adversity or pain. I'm just not sure if as a society we are taking this too far. What I mean is are we hurting our children by trying to protect them from life? Life isn't perfect so why do some of us want them to see it that way.  Many parents will remain married, "for the sake of the children" or some may hide family secrets related to drug abuse, alcoholism, or sexual preferences in order to "protect" the children. I'm not insinuating that we should give our children information they may not be ready to handle. However,  I do think that if we want them to grow up with the ability to handle real life we should allow them to see what that looks like before they are grown.

When I reflect on people I admire who are selfless, empathetic, full of wisdom, and involved in healthy relationships the majority of them do not come from your happy go lucky family life. Their family lives could be described as...... well  a little dysfunctional. What I'm really trying to say is that when I think of the people whom I admire most, they have generally had some adversity in their life. Their childhoods were not perfect, more often than not they come from some sort of broken home, and they didn't have the easiest road getting to where they are now. But yet it is that adversity or "dysfunctional" background that has allowed them to become the person they are today.

Am I saying that we shouldn't try our best to provide a well balanced, healthy family life with great traditions for our children?  No. That is not what I am saying at all. Do I think all children who come from broken homes and tumultuous backgrounds will always grow up to be great people? No, unfortunately that is not the case.  I am merely saying that it's okay to give them a peek at what "real life" looks like. It is all right if we  admit to them that things just don't always work out the way we want them to. Let them in on the adversity in your life, be honest with them, involve them in tough family decisions - a little bit of "dysfunctional" now may help them become more  "functional" as adults.

"Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant. "Horace