Mistaken Identity

What did you learn in school today?”

“Nothing.”

Certainly, many parents are familiar with this common after-school conversation and, as we settle into the daily routine of a new school year, our house is no exception.  Occasionally, our son will surprise us with more detail such as "today I learned how to do rounding" and for a moment, we get to feel a just a bit relieved that our tax dollars are hard at work.

As we send our son off into the big scary world of school to learn, I am constantly trying to impress upon him the importance of staying true to who he is, regardless of what others say about him, regardless of what others try to convince him to do. But in today’s world where it is increasingly difficult to tune out all of the noise around us stating what we should be, what we should do and what we should like, those of you who are parents can attest to how difficult of a task this can be.

Although, can we say we have done enough to make sure they actually know who they are?  I mean truly know…without the labels others (including parents) have projected on to them.  

If you will, take a moment to think about it for your own life.  How much of what you believe to be true about yourself was born from what others told you or what others wanted for you versus what you learned on your own?

Whether it was the bully at school who made you feel not good enough for anything, a parent who convinced you that being a lawyer was the key to happiness, or even the well-meaning coach who told you to “slim down”; how much of it did you take on as your own identity?

Children are like little sponges soaking up everything around them.  They are students during every second of their life and, as we take on the task of raising these individuals (not replicas), we need to do what we can to help our kids figure it out for themselves.

How? I certainly do not have all the answers, but I feel it starts by listening.  It starts by encouraging them to listen to their heart and then really listen as they express to us what’s in it; it starts by respecting what’s in it, even if it beats differently than ours. 

And, as difficult as it can feel, it starts with giving them opportunities to disagree with us, to make an argument and stand up for what they feel and believe in as it is the only way for them to learn what they are truly passionate about in this world.

Having our son learn about himself is just as important as learning math or science and, when I realized that we are his only teachers in this area, I decided to start introducing a new question into our regular conversation. 

"What did you learn about yourself today?"

If it means he learned he likes the school’s new “spiced pears” at lunch or that doing push-ups in gym class makes his muscles hurt; whether it’s learning that making new friends isn’t as scary as he thought, or even that some days he would rather play alone, it doesn’t matter. Teaching him that it is okay to be who he was born to be is the only way to help him stay that person.    

It was not long before our son began his third grade year that I began my 37th year in life and it has been a long time since anyone asked what I learned at the end of my day.  But I am still learning just as much and this new question is one I will also ask myself.  I encourage you to do the same. 

So what did you learn about yourself today?    

If you truly take some time to think about it, the answer may surprise you and steer you further down the path of where you were intended to go on this earth.  

There is, after all, no greater lesson for us to learn.