I have written a few posts about my son, but I have two beautiful daughters that have brought their own meaning and gifts into our family life. This weekend, I am officially declaring a girl weekend and blogging about the lessons my girls have taught me. Here is my post for my oldest:
Last week I attended parent/teacher conferences. I expected to hear what I have heard in all previous years, “Your daughter is so quiet. She needs to speak up more. She needs to participate more.” I heard the same from my teachers growing up. There seems to be an overlying amnesia among teachers in which being quiet is equated to not being engaged. I wonder how many students get missed just because they aren’t the class clown or smart mouth. However, this is not what I heard this year. No, three out of her five teachers told me that my daughter is “happy.” One of those teachers said, “Her happiness infects the students around her.”
I asked my daughter what she thought changed. She said, “I remembered what you said last year; that I had the right to be quiet and still be seen.” Honestly, I don’t remember saying that to her. That is not really how I talk but it is how she talks. As usual, this ten-year-old girl is spouting off wisdom well beyond her years.
Last year, we had a language arts assignment in which she was to look up the definition of leader in the dictionary. She came to me and said, “mom, I don’t like the dictionary definition.” I said, “Go ahead and write your own definition for it then.” She did. She came back and showed me her paper:
Leader: One who shows the way.
However, my daughter by all typical standards – what we generally use to assess and categorize our children – is only an “average” student. She has lamented that her reading skills and math skills are not as high as some of her “smart” friends. She broke my heart one day when she asked if she would be a successful adult because she could not read as well as others.
Somewhere we got it wrong. In this era of accountability, we are so obsessed with assessing but we only assess a very limited range of skills. And, even my homeschooled kids have clued into what the current educational landscape has deemed as most important. I have to wonder if at some point, our educational goals have shifted from what it means to be a successful person to such small measures that we no longer get a true picture of student/school success.
So my daughter may not score advanced on her state exam. However, my daughter is gifted. She is gifted with a heaping amount of emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence. We just live in a culture in which those are not talked about as being gifts or even necessary. But to deny their importance to success in life is downright silly. Perhaps, it is even dangerous to send the message that empathy and kindness are no longer important.
My girl makes friends quickly and they are deep friendships. She is our prayer warrior; at times even praying for needs I wasn’t yet aware of. She is always humble and would prefer to highlight the strengths in others over her own. She will honestly call out girls on “girl drama” too. She is not frightened of conflict, particularly when she sees someone being hurt. She has watched me, her mother go through some hard years of grieving and she holds me, lets me cry on her shoulder, and leaves love notes for me on the really tough days.
She is my measure, my mark of what it means to truly love others. She has been blessed with gifts of the spirit such as love, empathy, kindness, joy, faith and hope. These gifts don’t necessarily come easily to many of us. In this, my daughter is a leader, one who shows us the way.
How much are we missing in our children when we send out a consistent message that only certain skills are valuable, only certain skills bring on success? Perhaps your child is gifted in different ways than mine. Perhaps gifted in ways that the world doesn’t see or recognize. My hope is that we all can shine a light on our unique child’s gifts and send a clear message- this is what is important. This is what will bring success. This is what will bring them joy.