I quickly realized that if I turned to my almost 15-year-old and asked him what he believes his purpose is for his life, I would get a blank stare, one eyebrow raised for effect.
It follows that I would also not be able to ask my 6 and 4 year-old daughters what they thought their purpose was for their life. My role as a parent is as guide.
I set boundaries that protect against true dangers that exist in our world:
- Physical safety– “don’t run into the street”
- Emotional safety – identifying relationships that are healthy and safe,
- Mental safety – filtering information and exposure to ideas based on appropriateness level for the child.
I reveal tools that can be used in this journey and offer instruction on using them or connect my child to experts who can train my child to use the tools.
I give my child the space to explore the tools.
Most importantly, I learn along with my child what inspires them. What is the “why” for my child?
I had to put these thoughts into action. I asked myself, “Why does Daniel get out of bed in the morning?”
My immediate answer was, “To play video games.” However, it doesn’t seem to me that playing video games would be a Single Motivating Purpose.
Then I realized, Daniel’s love of videogames could point towards his purpose. There must be a reason he chooses one type of game over another type of game. So, I brought this up to Daniel as we were doing dishes together one night.
“Daniel, why do you like the games you play?” I asked
“What do you mean, ‘why?'” he replied.
“I mean, that there has to be a reason you choose say Minecraft or Assasin’s Creed over World of Warcraft. What about the games you choose is interesting or exciting to you?” I explained.
“Well, I think I am just the kind of guy who likes to discover things. Like in Minecraft where you discover new worlds,” he explained.
“Ok, but what about the zombie shooting games?” I asked.
“I like that I keep moving and find new weapons,” he replied.
“So, you enjoy challenging yourself with rapid decisions and discovery of new spaces, adventures, etc.?” I asked.
“Yeah. I guess so,” he continued, “but I also like the story and discovering the story as I go along.”
I didn’t discover my son’s life purpose. However, I did discover a new aspect to my son. I appreciated him. I was able find a way to engage him in a medium he was enthusiastic about, video games, and guide the thought process to something about himself. I was ecstatic.
Looking to help my son discover his purpose changed my perspective and allowed a precious connection with my son. I discovered something new about my son. I learned to appreciate him in a new way. My love of being his mother was replenished. I was also able to communicate a purpose oriented perspective to my son without lecturing.
I am now looking for opportunities to make discoveries with all my children by observing their passions and engaging them at that point.
I often hear that life is a journey not a destination. In raising an atypical child, the journey can sometimes be exhausting. However, there is renewed energy for me through this paradigm shift.