Like most of us moms during graduation season, I wiped the tears from my eyes while scratching my head, wondering where the time had gone. But, I also looked back with some sadness on the years I’d wasted trying to mold my son into my idea of success instead of accepting the amazing person that he is.
Jonathan, my middle child, graduated from high school last May. He’s 6’3,” 190 pounds, but it seems like just yesterday he was scampering into my bed to escape the rumble of a thunderstorm.
When Jonathan was a child, his imagination was off the charts. Even though he didn’t read until third grade, he was inquisitive, insightful and an impressive, competent communicator. I always figured school would be a whiz for him.
But it wasn’t. At least not in the way I thought it should be. Not because he wasn’t smart or intuitive or creative, but because of my own rigid view of how I thought he ought to be. I thought he should excel in college prep classes such as chemistry and advanced math.
He always loved being read to. When he was able, he became an avid reader himself, devouring several books a week. When he wasn’t reading, he planned detailed imaginary worlds accompanied by intriguing story lines. One day, he picked up a computer and declared that he wanted to be a writer, which was fine with me as long as he excelled in the areas that I thought were important. So, I continued to pressure him to work to excel in subjects I thought were important for success.
He’s smart, funny, and talented and can change the atmosphere of a room simply by entering it. People clamor to be around him even though he’s somewhat quiet and introverted.
As his senior year approached, I panicked. I worked overtime to smash him into the mold I’d imagined for him. But, he just wouldn’t fit.
Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, he’d developed into a kind young man of character and great focus, and I’d missed it. Sure, I’d caught glimpses along the way, but I could’ve enjoyed so much more if I weren’t blinded by my idea of who he should be.
Shortly before he graduated, I was at a low point. I felt like a failure. He was average in math at best and had no interest in chemistry. When he handed me a letter shortly before graduation, I realized how misguided I’d been all those years.
My eyes filled with tears as his words sank into my heart. His letter wasn’t full of mathematical formulas and chemical equations or complex literary analyses. It was full of the things that make him who he is, the reasons why I love him.
Here are 50 things my son thanked me for teaching him:
- How to love
- How to hug.
- How to say thank you.
- How to say please.
- How to spell tongue by saying “ton-gyou” in my head.
- How to ride my bike.
- How to treat girls.
- How to say “I love you” in sign language.
- How to talk.
- How to take a punch.
- How to eat at the table.
- Proper hygiene.
- How to wash clothes.
- How to make eggs.
- How to spell Wednesday by saying “Wed-nes-day” in my head.
- HOW TO READ.
- How to respect authority.
- How to challenge authority when needed.
- HOW TO DANCE (Jan Brady-style).
- How to spell.
- How to push myself.
- How to prioritize tasks.
- How to protect myself from being kidnapped.
- How to act in public situations.
- How to greet people.
- How to say goodbye.
- How to think critically.
- Why it is important to think critically.
- How to take notes.
- How to write a five-paragraph essay.
- How to take tests.
- Why I should be proud to be an American.
- How to tie my shoes.
- How to act when I find myself in an uncomfortable situation.
- How to clean my room.
- How to wash dishes.
- To say ‘I’m sorry.’
- How to forgive someone.
- How to not go with the crowd.
- How to have a relationship with Christ.
- Why it is important to have a competitive spirit.
- How to learn from my failures.
- How to be generous.
- How to be patient.
- How to have a degree of self-control.
- How to never let people walk over me.
- How to write.
- How to be the best person I can be and not accept second best.
- Why I am the luckiest guy on the planet because I have the privilege to call you my mother.
As I wiped the tears from my cheeks, I looked up into the eyes of a handsome, independent, gentle young man and realized that he’s everything and more that I could’ve ever wished for in a son, wrapped up in one amazing package. He’d been there all along.
My years of badgering hadn’t shaped him into the young man I wanted him to be. He’d become the young man he was destined to be. He had the necessary tools for success, in spite of me.
QUESTION: Do you try to fit your children into your mold instead of the one that suits them?
CHALLENGE: Count all the many ways that your child is unique and wonderful. When we look for the good, we can sometimes catch a glimpse of the amazing person each child is destined to become.
Edited by Briana Heinonen and Nollie Haws.
Image from Pixabay. Graphics added by Anna Jenkins.