Do you remember the first moment you looked into a newborn baby's eyes and realized that there was already someone there, a person looking back at you? Have you ever looked at your children and wondered how you raised such different personalities in the same home? Have you been amazed that you and your sister or brother came from the same family? In Ann Romney’s video on motherhood, she shares her discovery of this very miracle that each soul we bring into the world is unique and special, and that they all need to be given unique and different care and experiences.
As we raise these beautiful little children, it sometimes becomes a challenge to parent their very unique and individual souls. During Ann's journey, raising four boys, she tried to make sure they had every possible experience they might need to be well rounded. She poses a great question, "How do we develop this soul, this wonderful soul?”
Ann reminds us that, “Each child is individual, and we have to remember that as moms and dads and parents to these children, each child is so unique and brings unique gifts and we have to be flexible when we are raising them. And that we have to raise each child differently”
After watching Ann's video and reflecting on what she said, we would like to share what we have learned so far about how to develop a child’s wonderful soul.
Watch, observe and listen
Ann points out that discovering her older sons were not interested in piano by observing their behavior. By the time she had her fourth child, she became an observer who listened and responded to her child’s needs.
I remember teaching a group of children. One boy in my class was wiggly and often taken to his mother by previous teachers while the class went on. I once noticed that he was drawing beautiful dragons. I commented on his great drawing and watched his eyes light up. I told him I liked to paint. We had a connection and he blossomed. I pointed out his talent, something positive to his mother. Because she is a good mother, she developed it. Recently, several years after our first encounter, I got to hear him describe himself to someone as a good artist. His feeling of self-worth made my day.
Find creative ways to support and encourage your children’s interests
Ann Romney talks about all the energy she put into finding a piano and helping her sons learn the instrument only to discover that they were not musical. She then decided to put them in sports. From experience, we can tell you that getting three boys to games and practice is a difficult, but enjoyable task. Ann is no different than any of us. Her fourth son actually wanted to play the piano, so Ann rented one to allow him to pursue his musical aptitude.
There are many creative ways to fulfill your children’s needs, including involving them in fundraising for sports or music camps. When I was 5, I showed an interest in piano lessons. My mother did the piano teacher’s laundry and I received lessons. When I changed my mind at 11 and wanted pursue art, once again she did laundry, this time for a BYU art professor. When Erin wanted to play piano, the entire generation got involved until a nearly free piano was located.
Recognize their souls
Ann describes recognizing her son the musician’s soul. Not only did she recognize it, she accepted him for what he was, cherished him and embraced him. If I could go back and raise my children with what I know now, I would spend more time embracing their strengths and less time worrying about perceived weaknesses.
What would have happen to Ann's relationship with her son, if she had tried to force him to be something he wasn’t? She talked about a feeling that all mothers experience, that total frustration when you decide your child is going to do something like play the piano and they dig their heels in and refuse. At our house, we call it going boneless. Like a boneless chicken, lying on the floor, the ultimate, “You can’t make me!” Any spirit of peace in your home is gone. Ask yourself, is it important? Is it important to the child’s wellbeing or mine? Lastly, choose your battles carefully.
Ann shares that, “In the middle of it all you wonder if you’re going to survive." I wondered if I was going to let them live! Hang on, it does get better. Just like you probably make time each week to date your spouse, make an appointment weekly to spend quality time with each of your children individually, before the teen crazies begin. Develop a relationship and once again, observe, watch and get to know your teen’s fears and deepest desires. When there is discord, ask yourself, if it is the child or if it is your expectations causing the tension. Are you out of sync or rhythm, whose problem is it really?
Remember to prioritize
. Put God at the top of your list, then your marriage and then children before everything else.
Ann is right, “Raising children is one of the most difficult things there is in life. It’s also the most joyful once the job is done." Find joy in your children's unique and beautiful souls. Remember to spend time looking into their eyes and their hearts.
Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh