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On Blessings, Children, and Wrestling Mats November 21, 2007

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Coaching, Communication, Family, Love, Parenting/Children, Self-Worth, Sports.
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From the Amazon.com description of “The Blessing,” by John Trent and Gary Smalley:

…the life-changing gift the Bible calls “the blessing.” The unconditional love and approval that comes with the blessing is an important element of our self-esteem and emotional well-being. And many of us–perhaps unknowingly–spend a lifetime striving for this acceptance.

wrestling

I love this book, and recommend it highly. However, of late, I’ve seen the reverse effect: My sons have found unexpected ways of blessing me, the parent.

Bless My Soul!
Blessing your children can take many forms, but one of the forms I love seeing the most is a parent allowing their child to become the person that the child wants to be (which may not be who the parent wants them to be). In other words, voluntarily giving the child the authority to become independent of your hopes, dreams, and aspirations, and instead handing over that authority to the child. This is very difficult, and is clearly something that must be done in a manner appropriate for that particular child.

Another way to bless your child is with unconditional love. Strange as it may sound, I’ve found this to be just as rare as giving the child the opportunity to choose their own identity. One could argue, I suppose, that allowing a child to choose their identity is the ultimate expression of unconditional love.

Wrestling with Love
As soon as football season ended, my youngest son decided to join the wrestling team. As a junior in high school, this was somewhat unexpected, but I was glad to see him looking beyond the boundaries of his prior experiences, and stretching himself.

His first practice was uneventful, but the coaches praised him for being a quick learner and hard worker. Likewise, he praised the coaches. What caught me off-guard, was that he blessed me in the process of praising the coach.

The Unexpected Blessing
“I really like the wrestling coach, Dad” he began. “He’s really intense, but he always gives you a sense that no matter how poorly you did, that you’ll be able to eventually get it. It reminds me of how you coached me in football.”

I was immediately and completely dumbstruck. My son went on to talk about some techniques that he learned on his first day, and how there were various strategies that he might want to employ, as a beginner, in his first meet.

I don’t clearly remember anything that he said about those issues. My brain was stuck on the positive way he described his coach, and how he reflexively followed that with “It reminds me of how you coached me in football.”

Father Forgets? I Don’t Think So
In “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie suggests that if you’re going to praise someone, that you make it meaningful and directly applicable to things they’ve done. Your words of praise shouldn’t be generic, and are best when they couldn’t possibly apply to anyone other than the recipient.

Somehow, my son seems to have figured this out on his own.

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Comments»

1. Mia - November 26, 2007

I beg to differ…I believe he’s learned it by example.

Psalm 32:8 reads…I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.

Soli Deo Gloria

Personally I could share lots here but this isn’t my journal =O)
So…I just say that I’m glad you were open to the moment, that you took it to heart and savored it enough to create a memory. My hope is that he comes to know how much it meant to you. Then again I can’t imagine they ever miss the evidence of love lived out in your relationships.

Signing off as I read Isaiah 59:21

2. Tim - November 28, 2007

Mia,

Thank you for the encouragement and observation.

Amazingly, in his first wrestling meet this past Saturday, he went 5-0 (3 pins and 2 forfeits). I asked him about technique, since he had only learned a little about one or two basic wrestling moves by the time Saturday came around. His response:

“I don’t know any of the moves out of the up or down positions, so I had to pin them in the first minute or so.” – Tim

3. Oscarandre - December 1, 2007

Hi Tim. Unconditional love is probably rarer than we imagine and one of the first times we realise this is when our children begin to express their own will. Then again, is it useful to teach children that they can be loved in life unconditionally? Most of our expience says that love is VERY conditional (e.g. on faithfulness, loyalty, empathy, care). Just a thought.

4. Donna - December 3, 2007

When my son was about five, he announced that when he grew up he wanted to be a performer. My reaction? NOOOOOOO! I tried for about eight years to convince him to be a dermatologist, an orthodontist, a preacher, a vet, a lawyer…let’s see…I know there’s more. I was NOT successful. So I gave him up- to God, and I asked Him to watch over my singing, dancing, happy boy. I have to admit that God has done a great job so far. And I stay on my knees a lot.

5. Doug - December 10, 2007

What a wonderful blessing. My father only loved me when I failed, when he could identify with his own sadness and failure, and in the few instances of success, saw me as competition and criticized me to death. If only he knew we shared similar fears, he would not have tried to destroy the weaknesses I had that were his. So two dead instead of one. He hid from the love I would have given him. He lived in a world of conditionality. And the conditions were always impossible.

6. Tim - December 10, 2007

Oscarandre,

I would definitely agree that unconditional love is quite a rare thing. In fact, even when I’m intentional in trying to love my sons this way, it takes conscious effort to not slip little hooks and requirements into the things that I say and do. However, on those rare occasions that I succeed, it’s well worth it.

Donna,

I hear exactly what you’re saying, and feel that your experience parallels what my Mom went through with me. There is little doubt that she had many second thoughts about the wisdom of her son’s choices, but in thousands of ways, she stepped back and allowed me to be me. I regularly heard affirmations of love from both of my parents, even in the midst of me disappointing them. That kind of blessing brings amazing power.

Doug,

Wow… that is heartbreaking on so many levels, some that I can relate to, and some that I simply don’t have the experience to understand. Thanks for sharing that. At the same time, it sounds like you’ve learned from this, even if it was by negative example.

It’s a delicate balance; finding the passion that naturally appears in your children and encouraging it, as opposed to artificially creating a dream for them or living out your own unfulfilled dreams vicariously through them. Such is the lot we sign up for when we choose to procreate. – Tim


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