I’ve mentioned before that my eldest daughter Birdy has a fairly rare brain condition, so we spend quite a bit of time at Westmead Children’s Hospital. Recently she had to have an MRI. For those who haven’t had one, you lie inside a tube and you have to be perfectly still while an incredibly noisy machine takes photos of your brain. Some adults find it a bit claustrophobic, but it’s especially hard for kids so they usually do it under anaesthetic. But Birdy’s done it before without anaesthetic, so when they sent me the forms to consent to the anaesthetic I called the hospital and said we wouldn’t be needing it. Everybody I spoke to seemed very dubious that a 5 year old would be able to do it without anaesthetic. Even on the day, every time I’d say “We’re not having anaesthetic” we would get these knowing looks and raised eyebrows from the staff. But my husband and I both had complete faith in Birdy… and she was perfect. They got every photo first go with no fuss. That’s just a small example of how we can all do better than we might imagine when somebody has faith in us.
Children are born with an innate belief in their own abilities, but the messages that they get, initially from their parents, but also from their peers, can either build on that self-belief or chip away at it. Then those beliefs can become self-fulfilling. When I was at Uni I used to write and sing with a friend of mine. This friend, Andrew, would bring me a song he had written, and more than once I said to him, “There’s no way I can sing that!” But he would say, “Of course you can sing it! I can already hear it!” And after a bit of practice I would be able to do it! (I don’t think it’s any co-incidence that his wife is now a successful author! I bet he said to her, “Of course you’ll get published!” like my husband did to me.) When people believe in us, we can do more than even we imagine.
Of course there will always be some kids (and adults) who struggle to find their niche.
It’s that time of year where schools are handing out the end of year awards – and some kids always miss out. So what do you do for the child who doesn’t seem to be able to find their special talent?
I don’t think you need to be especially good at something to be able to feel a sense of achievement. I recently did the Mud Run, which is a fun-run through mud and over all sorts of obstacles. I’m not a very fit person, and I’m not a good runner, but I happened to be running with a friend, Natalie, who really spurred me on. She continually set small achievable challenges along the way – she’d say “Let’s take the blue guys” or “Let’s jog to the next drink station to beat the queue”, so with her help I was able to run a lot more of it than I would have otherwise. And I felt proud of myself just for finishing (especially in the 42 degree heat!).
This friend of mine is a teacher and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that her students have achieved exceptional HSC results. I think the approach she used in the Mud Run is a good model for what we should be doing for our kids. Child psychologist, Louise Porter says, “Children need a coach, not a cheerleader”. We don’t need to be always telling our kids how wonderful and talented they are, but we do need to get alongside them, encourage them, spur them on and recognise what they are capable of! Then hopefully they’ll go on to bigger and better things. Things they didn’t think they would be capable of.
To me, Christmas is all about having faith in the impossible!
We celebrate the idea that God came down to earth in the form of a baby. We celebrate the idea of a God who is powerful enough to make the world yet personal enough to care about each one of us. Since this blog is all about celebrating our own babies I thought it might be good to finish the year with some words about the baby Jesus. This is from the Jesus Storybook bible by Sally-Lloyd Jones. (From Luke)
“The God who flung planets into space and kept them whirling around and around, the God who made the universe with just a word, the one who could do anything at all – was making himself small. And coming down… as a baby. Wait. God was sending a baby to rescue the world? “But it’s too wonderful!” Mary said and felt her heart beating hard, “How can it be true?” “Is anything too wonderful for God?” Gabriel said.
So Merry Christmas! Believe for the impossible. Nothing is too wonderful for God!