I would make a terrible motivational speaker for the simple fact that they often inspire others with words like “The sky is the limit!” or “No dream is too big!” and I find myself rolling my eyes and muttering “Good luck with that.” Not that my life is perceptibly awful or I feel like a failure but just that I’ve seen so many deviations from prefabricated future plans that I figure that the best course of action is to let go of the charade that I actually am in charge of my life.
I never know how to react when my children dream out loud about what they want to be when they grow up, how many children they want to have and what they would name them. I started writing names for my future children when I was twelve and thank goodness I had to wait another decade plus to have them or else I would be hollering out the back door for Kenjamin Benneth, Escondido Ballentine, and Dannon Yoplait to come inside.
My life did follow the basic format of my preconceived plans but in no way could I have anticipated all the plot and setting twists that have challenged and shaped me into the person I have become.
Maybe my issue is that often the fill-in-the-blank dreams and plans are associated with prestige or box-checked moments: graduate college (check), get married (check), have four children (check) and less on the becoming part. My goals now, heading into my forties, look a lot more like:
- become more patient (uh, never getting checked)
- become more sincere and genuine (ditto)
- and for the love—stop worrying so much!
It is hard to know with both typical and special needs kids when to let their dreams be released and reality faced and whose job is it to tell them? Me? The coach? The music teacher?
This was an issue for us when my daughter with cerebral palsy declared last year that she wanted to play the drums in the band at school with all the other now fifth graders. I try not to say no to her desires based solely on her disability, unless she wants to be a linebacker. Then I’d have to say, “OK let’s try it and by the way, what songs do you want sung at your funeral?”
So, I talked to the amazing music teachers and explained the situation. I was quite firm that this was either going to be legit or not at all. I didn’t want her to be the token triangle player at the end of the song. A phenomenal friend and music teacher worked with her throughout the summer and the first part of the year. At times I thought we were crazy. There were moments when I was sure someone was going to protest that she was messing up the band’s groove. Then I heard them rehearse and realized that they all sounded like dying geese in childbirth and we were in good company.
We must have practiced Jingle Bells so many times that I can hear the rhythm in my dreams but it paid off and I was shocked during the concert that she was actually pretty on with the beat. With only a few mistakes, she rocked it and she was so incredibly and justifiably proud of herself.
I don’t know if she will play the drums forever. I seriously doubt she will be the first heavy metal drummer with cerebral palsy but she is doing hard things and not giving up which is a great lesson to learn. And she is reminding people that not everything you think or perceive about those with disabilities is true.
At the end of the concert an amazing administrator who was marveling at her effort said, “Thank you for sharing her with us.” and I wish I had thought to reply, “Thank you for seeing her innate worth and ability to overcome challenges.” That is what we are all going about learning here in life, right? We all wonder where our innate worth lies and we realize that overcoming challenges divulges that bit by bit.
I want all my children to fulfill their potential, whatever that may be but this is what I tell them: I care more about who you are becoming than what you do. I hope they find God purpose and plan for their life. I hope they find people to love, lift, teach and serve. I hope they find communities of friends who love, lift, teach and serve them. I hope they find joy and meaning in the struggle and challenges of life. I hope they realize that God’s way isn’t the most expedient way but it is always the most worthwhile.
Maybe I would make a quasi-mediocre inspirational speaker after all, telling all the world to do hard stuff even if others think you might be crazy for attempting it or it hasn’t been done before. And if you fail, you learn, you lean on others, and find joy in the rubble. I’ve found quite a few treasures in the debris of my plans and selfish dreams. Also, I am positive I will find many more as I build and break, build and break, build and break. That has been the soundtrack of my life and if that isn’t beautiful music, I don’t know what is.
Postscript: I’d like to dedicate this post to music teachers everywhere who patiently teach children that effort and grit pay off in big ways—not in notoriety or fame but in honing resilience and character. Parents everywhere honor and are in awe of all you do with our children. Rock on!
PPS: I typically do one smaller post a week on TPIL’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thepartilove/. Hope to see you there!
(photo cred: pexels.com)