by Geraldine Ann Marshall
Spider looked down from her web at the sleeping baby. She knew she couldn’t make music like Cricket. She knew she couldn’t make honey like Honeybee. “I’m just an ordinary brown spider. I have nothing to give.”
The above quote from my book, Spider’s Gift: a Christmas Story (Pauline Books & Media) is written by the mother of two. One daughter is now a music educator (and new mom herself) and the other is a doctor (delivering new babies). By God’s grace, I hope I did something right in helping each child find her unique gifts and the quiet confidence to use them!
But before I bask in the glow of parenting pride, I can share that as in Spider’s Gift, there was more than one night where a daughter (and Mom) said, “I don’t have any gift for baby Jesus.” And she cried herself to sleep.
There was the time when my talented musician announced that she thought she would forget college for a time and go to France and pick fruit. Sometimes, it is not easy to know what to encourage in our children. (For the record, I wasn’t willing to pay for the trip to France.) Think how confused Mary was when Jesus disappeared as a boy to teach in the temple. She was no doubt proud, but can’t you see the first gray hairs starting to form? When my now-doctor daughter joined the Peace Corps after college to spend three years in Africa before going to medical school, I knew Mary understood my guarded encouragement.
I called my oldest as she waited for the birth of her first child and asked what I had done well in encouraging her to find her gifts and gain the confidence to use them. She said that, first of all, I had respected her interests. We laughed over my own mom’s encouragement of what she wanted me to do rather than what I wanted to do. Believing that every young lady should know how to dive, Mom enrolled me in diving lessons. I hit flat and ended up with bruised thighs. But Mom was determined. She sent me back to diving lessons and while I looked good going in, I wasn’t holding my arms enough over my eyes and I ended up with two black eyes! Much to my relief, the diving instructor refused to teach me again and I could go back to just playing in the pool. So, I guess the first step is to watch what interests your child and listen to them. Sometimes we learn from our own parents’ well-meaning mistakes.
Offer your child opportunities and then watch how they respond. Try to accompany them on the path. Introduce them to a variety of interests: books, music, sports, and even special devotions and traditions of our Faith, and help them pursue the ones that speak to them. My younger daughter had an interest in ancient Egypt while growing up. We had every children’s book and mummy kit on ancient Egypt and traveled to many museum exhibits. Bonus: I discovered an interest in archaeology myself that I still pursue.
Try not to make the child’s interest a job. We all want to encourage our children to stick to what they’ve committed to do, but it is important to continue watching and listening. For example, if the best coach is too demanding for your child, find another. I think it has stood my doctor daughter well through the rigors of medical school that she ran track not caring if she was first, but rather that she finished the races. We celebrated that!
Parenthood is a journey with our children. We—and they—will stumble along the way. But God will help us to keep going, finding our best gifts to give.
Geraldine Ann Marshall is the author of Spider’s Gift: a Christmas Story, published by Pauline Books & Media, and other books. She is the mother of two and grandmother of a new grandson!
Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life,
form yourself in me,
that I may see with your eyes,
smile with your smile,
and love with your heart.
Mary, our Mother, Teacher, and Queen,
pray for us.