My recent thoughts on a life aimed at finding and fulfilling my purpose vs meeting my potential have impacted how I parent. As the parent of an Aspie, I have found encouragement and reassurance from my recent paradigm shift.
In order to demonstrate this paradigm shift, I should give some context. I was raised in a very externally oriented household. My father was a pastor and there was a lot of pressure on how presented ourselves. There was a clear list of acceptable aspirations and an equally uncompromising list of unacceptable pursuits.
I was a smart child and my potential was very clearly defined for me at an early age. However, my mother placed a high value on authenticity. I lived in a highly pressured world of trying to force myself to truly be the obedient, submissive, and sweet girl who didn’t really want to pursue dance and would rather learn to host a large fellowship. Success was measured by approval of my family’s church.
As an adult, I left my family’s church and with it shed the idea of the limited list of acceptable aspirations. I did retain the idea that I and everyone have potential that we should each meet. I still thought I should perform at a level that would meet the expectations of broader society. I measured my success by appreciation showed to me through social acceptance, something that had been hard to find as a pastor’s daughter in the outside world. I also measured success by my paycheck. I assumed that if employers saw that I was smart and worked hard they would reciprocate with increased pay. I had some success but it was very unfulfilling and stressful.
I became a mother and I transfered my definition of success to my child’s ability to meet potential. Fortunately for me, I had been given an atypical child. He would not meet any of the standard markers of potential from the very beginning.
I approached parenting my atypical child with the perspective that he had a lot of potential and that I needed to create alternate paths for him to fulfill his potential. I believed that he could accomplish everything the typical child could if given the right structure.
I discovered that in addition to Asperger’s Syndrome, my son is ADD and severely dyslexic. I found therapies for him. I arranged tutoring. I bought him comic books and graphic novels. I chaffed that I couldn’t find a way for him to love to read. I fretted over his love of video games, seeing them only as a hinderance. I found myself constantly fighting hopelessness. I was losing my love of being a mother.
The thought dawned on me, what good was meeting all the external expectations, fulfilling my child’s” potential” if it meant I found being a parent hopeless and soul-sucking and my son found life a depressing drudge? Would it matter if my son graduated from school with the ability to read but a hatred of every activity that he had been forced to endure?
I was defining my success as a parent by my ability to help my children, my son in particular, meet outside expectations. My parenting was externally oriented.
Let me be clear. I never measured the worth of my child by his accomplishments. I have always and still do believe that every person has inherent value. However, I did measure my successfulness as a parent by my child’s ability to fulfil an externally measured potential.
I heard a podcast at Internet Business Mastery in which they were defining the term, Single Motivating Purpose. The speakers were defining an SMP as, “a thing that you were meant to do in life.” They further explained that this thing would be a recurring theme in your life. “it shows up in all the different aspects of your life, whether it’s your parenting style or how you run your business, or even the kinds of hobbies that you tend to gravitate to.”
The presenters went on to explain that if individuals look to align their business/career pursuits with what they find as their SMP, they will find their work fulfilling, energizing, and will pursue excellence which gives the best opportunity for success.
As I focused on the idea of finding purpose instead of fulfilling potential, I had my “Ah-Ha!” moment. Instead of parenting my child towards the goal of fulfilling potential, I wanted to guide my child towards discovery of his purpose.
If guiding my child towards discovery of his or her potential is the “why” of my parenting, how do I do this?
Tomorrow: Parenting My Child Toward Purpose.