Let’s get one thing straight first. My mother is a saint. The Lord dealt her a pretty sucky hand in life and I don’t think anyone could have done a better job raising her children.
There was no doubt that my siblings and I are special to HER, and I’m not sure she ever said the words “You are not special.” In fact, she thought that every kid should feel special on their birthday. Which would seem to contradict my original idea, but in reality, it meant that today you are special. Tomorrow you join the real world.
But implied that if we wanted to make our mark on the world we would have to work for it. No excuses. There was nothing about our existence that gave us any special privileges. We had to accomplish something first if we wanted to feel good about ourselves. She expected us to act and do well. Not use the bad things in our lives as an excuse to do nothing, or to do badly. So that pushed us to accomplish things. Not in “tiger mama” fashion, but in a laid back “You are the only person hurt by your bad decisions” fashion.
Based on that title you might be surprised to find out that I felt incredibly special as a child. I felt talented and accomplished. Why? Because my mother pushed me to accomplish things. At nine-years old I started working for her as an “assistant” at her Financial Counseling firm. Where she paid me with lunch at my favorite restaurant. There I learned all kinds of real world, entry level skills, that I would use later in life. Over time, as I became more accomplished, she let me do bigger and better things. If I did the filing right, then I could answer phones. If I showed a good phone manner, she would let me greet her clients and help them fill out the paperwork. Onward and upward. Rewarding my accomplishment with more opportunities, not unlike the real world.
Later She supported my sister and I in our decision to volunteer with a local organization. There we both won multiple recognition awards from the company and I was even nominated for a statewide award. Which is still one of my proudest accomplishments. When my brother and sister and I wanted to raise chickens, she said okay and helped us design and build our own chicken coop, and helped us get everything we needed to care for our baby chicks. She made sure we were taking care of our chickens. Those chickens would go on to win the blue ribbon at our county fair. She taught us Skills and she encouraged us to find creative ways to solve our problems instead of doing it for us. Always behind us she made us fight our own battles…respectfully and calmly.
She expected us to be to be professional and personable from a young age. When my brother applied for his first job, the interviewer came out and told my grandmother what an incredible kid he was and how impressed she was with how he spoke to her and how thoughtful his answers were.
The point of this post is not to brag about my childhood accomplishments. Instead I want to highlight something that my mother did right, that I hope to be able to pass on to my children. It’s not necessarily telling children that they are not special or even that they are. It’s about helping them find ways to help them feel accomplished.