Like most moms during graduation season, I wiped the tears from my eyes while scratching my head, wondering where the time had gone. But, I also looked back with some sadness on the years I’d wasted trying to mold my son into my idea of success, instead of accepting the amazing person that he is.
Jonathan, my middle child, graduated from high school last May. He’s 6’3 and 190 pounds, but it seems like yesterday that he was scampering into my bed to escape the rumble of a thunderstorm.
When Jonathan was a child, his imagination was off the charts. Even though he didn’t read until 3rd grade, he was inquisitive, insightful and an impressive communicator. I always figured school would be a breeze for him. But it wasn’t. At least not in the way I thought it should be. Not because he wasn’t smart or intuitive or creative, but because of my own rigid view of how I thought he should be.
He always loved being read to. When he was able, he became an avid reader himself, devouring several books a week. When he wasn’t reading, he created detailed imaginary worlds accompanied by intriguing story lines. One day, he picked up a computer and declared that he wanted to be a writer, which was fine with me as long as he excelled in the areas I thought were important.
I continued to pressure him to excel in those subjects I thought were imperative to his success. He’s smart, funny, and talented and can change the atmosphere of a room simply by entering it. People clamor to be around him even though he’s somewhat quiet and introverted.
As his senior year approached, I panicked and worked overtime to smash him into the mold I’d imagined for him. But, he just wouldn’t fit. Shortly before he graduated, I was at a low point. I felt like a failure. He was average in math, at best, and had absolutely no interest in chemistry.
When he handed me a letter shortly before graduation, as his words sank into my heart, I realized how misguided I’d been all those years. His letter wasn’t full of mathematical formulas, chemical equations or complex literary analyses. It was full of the things that make him who he is. It was full of the reasons I love him and the life lessons he had learned along the way.
My son thanked me for teaching him these 50 life lessons:
- How to love
- How to hug
- How to say thank you
- How to say please
- How to spell tongue by saying “ton-gyou” in my head
- How to ride my bike
- How to treat girls
- How to say “I love you” in sign language
- How to talk
- How to take a punch
- How to eat at the table
- Proper hygiene
- How to wash clothes
- How to make eggs
- How to spell Wednesday by saying “Wed-nes-day” in my head
- HOW TO READ
- How to respect authority
- How to challenge authority when need be
- HOW TO DANCE (Jan-Brady style)
- How to spell
- How to push myself
- How to prioritize tasks
- How to protect myself from being kidnapped
- How to act in public situations
- How to greet people
- How to say goodbye
- How to think critically
- Why it is important to think critically
- How to take notes
- How to write a 5-paragraph essay
- How to take tests
- Why I should be proud to be an American
- How to tie my shoes
- How to act when I find myself in an uncomfortable situation
- How to clean my room
- How to wash dishes
- How to say I’m sorry
- How to forgive someone
- How to not go with the crowd
- How to have a relationship with Christ.
- Why it is important to have a competitive spirit
- How to learn from my failure
- How to be generous
- How to be patient
- How to have a degree of self-control
- How to never let people walk over me
- How to write
- How to be the best person I can be and not accept second best
- Why I am the luckiest guy on the planet because I have the privilege to call you my mother
Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, he’d developed into a kind young man of character and great focus, and I’d missed it. Sure, I’d caught glimpses along the way, but I could have enjoyed so much more if I hadn’t been blinded by my idea of who he should be.
As I wiped the tears from my cheeks and looked up into the eyes of a handsome, independent, gentle young man, I realized that he’s everything I could’ve wished for in a son and more. And, there he was, all wrapped up in one amazing package. In fact, he’d been there all along.
My years of badgering hadn’t shaped him into the young man I’d wanted him to be. Despite me, he’d become the young man he was destined to be and he had everything he needed to be a success.
Former journalist turned SAHM Sheila Qualls blogs to encourage, entertain and educate wives and mommas through a window of humor and transparency. She shares her life’s lessons collected over 30 years of marriage, 5 kids, home schooling, 10 corporate moves, two dogs and a ferret. (May they rest in peace.) Her life is real. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but it’s always honest. After having kids, she’s learned to look at the world from a less serious perspective. She and her family live in Minnesota. Three of her five children are now in college. You can find Sheila at RealMomsDontJudgeWeJustSuggest, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.