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Jun 252012

As little boys we’re like sponges just soaking up the world around us. With the guidance of our loving parents we traverse life’s obstacles and learn to find a place in our own bodies. Little boys in particular are very resistant to change and are pretty sure, most of the time, that what they know is right. Of course, parents have that responsibility to teach their children the rights and wrongs of life.

Which leads me to my next point. Perhaps many parents, in their very best effort to “do right”, actually wind up assisting their children in unlearning what is actually true. This belief rests on the principle that we are born with all the inherent qualities we have as humans. The inherent qualities I speak of include compassion, lovability, thoughtfulness, sensitivity, vulnerability, creativity, and many others. I believe one of two things happen as young children. Either we are reminded about what is already true about us (the inherent qualities) or we unlearn what is true and are taught the opposite. The opposite being not lovable, not good enough, not worthy, etc.

My wife had her phone on her and asked my son Jake (he’s two) if there was anything he wanted to say to his best friend “Connor” (who is also two). Without prompt this sweet little boy told his best friend that he loved him. My wife sent the video to Connor’s mom and he too wanted to send Jake a message back. Of course, his message was just as touching as I think you’d agree.

Jake and Connor were both born loving, lovable, tender, sweet, thoughtful, sensitive, vulnerable, creative, and sensitive. These qualities are clearly present in the video. Yet for the average “Jake” and “Connor” at 18 or 28 or 48 for that matter they would not be described that way. Men aren’t typically described as sweet, tender, vulnerable, sensitive or loving. So where does this get lost?

For now, I think it’s best that we’re all reminded what’s true about these two boys and every other boy. No matter what they unlearn down the road they’re all sweet, loving, lovable, tender,and sensitive among hundreds of qualities. They don’t have to win anything, do anything better, faster, or harder. They’re already everything they should be. So if you’re a parent reading this I invite you to consider that perhaps as, if not more, important than what our children have to learn is what they need to be reminded of. Those same things are what we can remind ourselves about. After all, we may not be children anymore but we still have all of those qualities we see in these two little boys.

What are some of your favorite ways to remind your son or daughter what’s true about them? How about yourself?

Jun 192012

This past Sunday  morning O and I were at the table where she was drawing me a great picture for Father’s Day. As she was drawing each little picture she’d describe for me what she was drawing.

This is a sweetheart for me and dad.

This is wife Jake.

This is wife Dad.

This is a house party for Mina (imaginary friend)…and so on…

What an imagination this little being of sweetness is! It was hard to make out exactly what this 4-year old was drawing but she had descriptions and she certainly knew what it was. So I would remember, I wrote down (with an arrow pointing) next to each little picture what the drawing was. I knew in a year, heck even a week, I’d forget that the swirly line she drew was supposed to be a cup drinker fire band, and no, I don’t have a clue what that is!

What an imagination this little princess has!

Then she asked me a question, “Daddy, What do you want to be when you grow up?”. At first I just thought this was a cute and sweet question that a little 4-year old asks. Then I sat with it for a moment and thought about exactly who I am in my life. Completely out of habit I thought about what I do for a living. Then I realized the question was about who I want to be, who I am.

Most of my life I defined who I was by things I did or things that existed outside of Josh. I quickly reminded myself that whether or not I like work, whether or not I’m athletic, whether or not I fall under any external label that identifies performance driven roles I am who I am. I’ve spent the last year of my life in deep reflection and personal growth.

That question posed while at first sweet, innocent, and cute was a reminder that we don’t have to do things to become who we are. Being who we are is nothing more than an awareness of what’s been there our whole lives. No, not outside of us, inside of us.

It was also a reminder from this little creative genius that it’s never too late to become aware of “who we want to be” when we grow up. Unlike obtaining a PhD, a Law Degree or the title of Vice President, becoming the unique, worthy, lovable, good enough people is as simple as turning on the lights.

Everything you ever wanted to be, everything you ever wanted to see in your children is a matter of awareness.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Jun 052012


When our children are first born we look at them in awe. We’ll sit and stare at them, falling deep into their eyes. For many of us it’s hard to put these moments into words. Often times we don’t know what we see but we know it’s the best feeling in the world. As our children grow up there are less opportunities for that type of lengthy gazing. Heck my kids won’t sit still long enough to eat some food let alone for me to ponder their souls. However, that same feeling we had when we were able to sit and stare is still there.

While in those moments we were seeing with our eyes we were actually aware on a much deeper level. That awareness allowed us to see their inherent qualities and all that is good and true about them. Some of the inherent qualities I talk about are lovable, valuable, worthy, precious, creative, beautiful, and many others. These qualities look familiar to us because even though sometimes we question their validity they are all true about us as well. Inherent qualities may be dismissed or denied but they are with us at birth and never leave.

As our children get older there are plenty of reminders about what is “wrong” with them or how they need to perform or do things beyond just being themselves to gain attention, affection, acceptance, and appreciation. This sets the stage for them as they get older to go find ways to feel loved, lovable, etc. Perhaps if we appreciated those inherent qualities in them a little more often they would know that they don’t need to search past themselves to find love. Just maybe when they received messages from others like they’re stupid, or ugly, or unworthy, etc. they would question them instead of learning to accept them.

In the very least, I can’t think of many better ways to honor your child and help them to establish a sense of self than giving them appreciations. Appreciations can be kept very simple and would probably work best when they are not in the middle of “doing something”. I advocate this approach only because you may not want to associate them having to do something (ie; painting, cleaning, performing) in order to be appreciated for who they are. This is a time for them to be reminded of what’s true about them regardless of what they do. Again, this deeper level of awareness is a reflection of their “being” not their “doing”. Just before they go to bed at night would be a great time to let them know that you appreciate how creative, loving, lovable, valuable, precious, curious, and smart they are. These are just a few examples of what you might appreciate about them. When they are old enough you might want to write a few out and have them read them to themselves. Hearing themselves remind them can resonate even deeper.

In a world where we can guarantee we’ll be hearing a lot of false things about ourselves isn’t it nice to know that a simple reminder of what is true can go a long way? What are some ways you’ve found to remind your children what’s true about them?

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