Week Seventeen: Know Your Kids
by Jeannette Clift George
My mother was a gifted pianist. Music never left her fingers, her heart, or her home. Even though she gave up a concert career when she married my father, she loved to play the piano and she thought I would feel the same.
I practiced obediently, if not skillfully, doing endless scales or one-note melodies punctuated by chords repeated with little variation. My assigned music was in a large and floppy collection that kept sliding off the piano as though it, too, wanted to leave the room. I was not a gifted student. At a piano recital, I took twelve emotion-packed minutes to introduce my piece, which I forgot the moment I sat down to play it.
One afternoon I was laboring joylessly over “The Happy Farmer,” and Mother was out in the backyard laboring with great joy over her day lilies. As I played, Mother called from the yard, “No, it’s F-sharp, honey, F-sharp!”
I struck every note my two hands could reach and began to cry. Mother hurried in to me. “What’s the matter?” she asked.
“How did you know it was wrong?” I cried. “You were out in the yard and I was here with the music. What I played sounded just fine to me!”
Mother looked at me in dismay. She had not intended to discourage me. “Besides,” I said, still spattering tears upon the keyboard, “I’m only doing this to please you.”
My mother stared at me in astonishment. Never in her life had she imagined that anyone did not want to play the piano. All her dreams of handing down the joy of music to her daughter melted in the glare of my outburst. And in one instant, she accepted the painful revelation.
She came to me, smiling, and hugged me. She brushed away my tears and said, “Well, honey, you don’t have to do it. We’ll find something that pleases you.”
Now I wish I had learned to play the piano, but I think back to that moment in awed awareness of my mother’s instant understanding. She looked into my heart and realized that I would not be happy living out her dream. She freed me to pursue my own dream: theater.
My mother and father attended every performance of mine in the Houston area. No matter how demanding the role or how critical the production, my mother would always say, “Sugar, you can do it. I know you can.” And something in me deeper than fear and doubt believed her. Even in the wearying long hours of rehearsals and performances my mother’s creative encouragement was a joy.
One night after a late performance that had been further lengthened by a picture call, I came home after Mother had gone to bed. There was a light on in the kitchen and downstairs hallway. Tiptoeing, I climbed the stairs to my room. I was very tired, and in that moment stumbled upon the deep loneliness that seems to haunt the actor after working hours. As I moved to turn off the light, I glanced down the stairwell.
A large chrysanthemum plant was on a table in the hallway. That night it bloomed with greetings from my mother. She had cut out tissue paper faces and placed them in the center of each blossom and had printed messages on the border of each face… “Good Night, Jeannette…Sweet Dreams.” No bouquet ever meant more to me or has stayed so fresh in my memory. When I think of how God has gifted all of us with our own unique creativity, I think of those flowers, and I thank God for my mother.
It can be easy for us as parents to place expectations on our children, nurturing our own dreams rather than allowing theirs to blossom and grow. Much more difficult is the challenge of getting behind the eyes of your child, seeing what he sees and feeling what he feels. When he is lonely, he needs your company. When he is defiant, he needs your help in controlling his impulses. When he is afraid, he needs the security of your embrace. When he is curious, he needs your patient instruction. When he is happy, he needs to share his laughter and joy with those he loves.
If you truly know your child, you’ll be in a much better position to respond to the ups and downs of parenting—and while you’re at it, to actually enjoy the process! We’ll talk more in the next few days about how to become “wise and understanding people” (Deuteronomy 4:6, nkjv) and gain an intimate understanding of our children.
“Sweet Dreams” by Jeannette Clift George. From Mothers Have Angel Wings, compiled by Carol Kent © 1997. Used by permission of NavPress/Pinon Press. All rights reserved. For copies call 1-800-366-7788.
This devotional is taken from Night Light for Parents. Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.