As you’re reading this, you’re likely living in a world where chaos seemingly reigns supreme. Our society is colored by a vitriolic national election, terrorism, racial unrest, all kinds of problems. And yet, everyday I have hope as a parent because of my three little daughters and my niece. Here are a few pieces of evidence from the past week that give me hope.
About 2 weeks ago, Olivia decided that she no longer wanted to sleep facing the head of her bed. Instead, she wanted to sleep at the foot of her bed. We assumed it was a fleeting fancy, besides, it was late when she made the request so why bother fighting it right? She’s insisted on sticking to her decision every day since then. At first, I did have a strong inclination to resist letting her do this, but then I realized…what’s the harm? Besides, it’s kind of cool that she one day decided…I think I want to be different in this particular way and she’s stuck to her decision. That’s my Olivia, our middle child. I saw it in her from an early age when she initiated her own potty training (unlike Riley who had to be coaxed into submission). Olivia knows her own mind and does her own thing. I have few worries about her ability to make a strong decision and stand by it. My job is to continue to build her judgement so that she can trust the decisions she makes every time. But a young black girl who dares to be different, even in the small things at an early age…she’ll be successful in life and I think she’ll make the world a better place for it.
Last week we were at small group when London, our newly minted 1 year old, did something special- she started hugging everyone around the kitchen. It was so precious, watching her little toddler legs waddle around and grab the legs of each person attempting to hug them. It was also typical London behavior. She doesn’t need permission to be warm and affectionate. Perhaps it’s because she’s the baby, or maybe it’s the age gap between she and her siblings (5 years from Riley, 3 from Olivia), but London has been by far our most easy going, care free child. This generosity of spirit, characterized by her constant dimpled smile can warm any heart. We’re still discovering many of her strengths, but what we at least know right now, is that she will bring the world uncanny joy and that’s something we all need.
I joke that with my oldest Riley, she was blessed (or burdened depending on how you look at it) with the responsibility gene. There’s been a lot written about the birth order effect, and a lot about being the oldest rings true for this young girl. This week, as usual she brought home a glowing academic report (reading on 3rd grade level in first grade, doing 2nd grade math, got on gold (for behavior), and over family dinner was able to recant the lesson for the week in Sunday school. Real talk, there’s a saying in my house, if Riley said it, it’s probably accurate. She remembers things with vivid accuracy (like when she retold the story of a when she was with grandma and the car broke down on the highway- she was literally 2 years old then), and she’s always good for a random factoid (like when she reminded us that fall actually started on Sept 21st). We’re starting to realize that this girl knows a lot of stuff, while also trying to protect her sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. One of the downsides of knowing so much and being so inquisitive is that you learn a few hard truths early on, and this can discourage even the most ardent young souls. She seems to take things she doesn’t quite understand in stride, filing them away for a later time or asking the good question about why something is the way it is. If somehow she’s able to maintain this position of thoughtfulness from age 6 into adulthood…we might be talking the kind of strong leadership our nation needs.
Finally, there’s my niece. It’s been an up and down battle with this one, getting her to buy into the idea of setting a purpose and working hard towards it. But she’s on the path. Last night she was rewarded by her effort with meeting one of her academic goals (she sets weekly goals for tests, and creates action plans to get herself there). This week was the first time that her effort was commiserate with her goal and it paid off. We celebrated with her, but deep down we were relieved, because finally even the hardest case- teenage parenting is starting to show some signs of hope.
For parents out there wondering if there’s hope in this world, look no farther than your children and their daily growth. Even in the little things, you’ll glimpse aspects of their talents, talents that will one day change the world for the better. Thank God for these little reminders of what’s possible.