One of those things I remember was the way my Dad would sometimes tuck us up onto his lap as kids and talk to us about what we were good at. He’d ask us what we thought our talents were and each time we suggested something he’d wholeheartedly agree, and write the first letter of each talent we named on one of our fingertips. For example, if I told him I thought I was pretty ok at taking care of babies (that was one of my greatest loves as a child), he’d write a big “B” on one finger for “babies,” then an “F” on the next finger for how I could do flips on the trampoline. He’d also add in what he thought we were good at when we got stumped.
It made me happy.
It made me feel capable.
It made me feel secure.
Because really, if my Dad thought I was good at it, then it must be true.
Fast forward to now. Grace and I are reading a book right now (The Report Card) that tells about this fascinating study. The study took a group of kids and tested them on their academic abilities. After the test, the administrators let some of the kids and their teachers know that they were “gifted.” The teachers were told to expect a lot from these particular kids and the kids felt like they were important.
Well, the administrators were right. Those kids excelled dramatically in school. But the interesting thing was that in the end, the people running the study let everyone know that these kids who they had labeled as “gifted” hadn’t tested that way after all. Their names were picked out of a hat of all things.
The difference was that those kids felt exceptional. Someone told them they could succeed. They believed it. Their teachers believed it. So it became true.
I think that’s how life is. If we believe in ourselves, we can make things happen.
And in a way, I think that’s what my Dad was doing when we were young. Writing those talents on our fingertips let us know he believed in us. And we believed him.
Sure, I never became an Olympic gymnast because he wrote that “F” on my finger for my wonderful flips. But I believed I had talents. And I’m thankful for the confidence both my parents had in me even though I was the shyest kid in history.
The other day I got out my ballpoint pen and scooped Claire up on my lap to talk to her about her talents.
She beamed. She looked just like I remember feeling after getting my fingers all marked up years and years ago.
Delight poured out of her for the next hour.
And before long she had her sisters gathered around on the couch and was telling them about their talents. They were mesmerized. (And of course I had to grab the closest camera I could get my hands on, which happened to be my little blurry one, but you get the picture.)
I hope little traditions like this one will help my children recognize their potential – and help them see the talents and potential of others.
And thank you, dear Dad, for believing in us.
QUESTION: What are some of your ideas for celebrating your kids’ talents? What are some of the unique skills and abilities that you appreciate in your children?
CHALLENGE: Take some time this week (bedtime or some other quiet moment) to sit individually with one of your children and talk to them about their talents. Talk to them about what they think they’re good at and share the specific things you really appreciate about them. They’ll walk away from the conversation several inches taller! And you’ll love them more than ever after sharing this conversation with them.
I may have the worst memory known to man, but I do remember vividly a few varied things from growing up. I remember how my Dad had us lug big rocks up to our cabin at Bear Lake as the only way to make some money in the summers, and how my second grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Whaley and I thought that was the best name in the whole wide world. I remember little things like how sometimes when we lived in England my Mom would play the piano as we’d fall asleep at night (and I remember how wonderful it felt to hear it) and I remember vividly how amazing I thought I was at the “bars” at recess in third grade. I could do the “dead-mans-fall” over and over and over again like nobody’s business.