Before I tell you about your kids’ storyline and our young lumberjack, please think about your own unique gifts and talents for a moment.
Make a short list.
When did you discover them?
How did you discover them?
Who encouraged you to explore your interests? Was it your parents? School? A friend?
Or did you find them later in life on your own self-awareness journey?
Considering where you’re at in your life today, do you feel like your self-confidence around your gifts is strong… or a bit weak (or hidden even)?
Is it possible you still have no idea what your unique gifts and talents are? (Hint: We all have ’em!)
I wanted to start by having you take notice on when you noticed your own gifts and how cultivated you believe they are, because everyone’s path to these discoveries is different.
It really is that simple, but it’s not always easy with the busy of life.
If you were to tell an old friend about your child, what would you say about who they are?
Do they have an affinity with something?
Do they get lost in books for hours or are they a busy-body?
Do they seem overly concerned with external validation or do they seem confident in who they are?
Do they want to know the why behind everything? Or perhaps just want to dive in and use their hands to figure things out?
What do they have no patience for?
Why do their friends like to play with them?
What do their teachers say about them?
What connections do they have with loved ones? For example, maybe their “thing” with their Grandfather is to do puzzles.
What’s their character like?
There’s a zillion questions you can use! Those are just off the top of my head.
Use what you think you know about them, be a mirror, and get curious with them. The more you do this, the more they will learn to do this on their own. Teaching them to self-reflect is a life-long tool!
Something I found myself saying to my son, “I noticed you get really excited to pick up sticks. What do you like about collecting sticks?”
“I like to collect them for fires,” he told me.
For me, I’ve been using these tiny conversations to reaffirm or get clear on what I think I know about him.
Along the way, he’s learning to notice and acknowledge his own little self-truths. This is the habit we want to help them form!
Then, together, we explore how we can expand on whatever topic at hand.
My daughter is a thinker. Her unique gift storylines are a little less tangible, so far. So, the most visual example I can show you is how Levi began with the desire for tools and quickly upgraded to using a chainsaw.
Yes, you read that right!
My 7-year-old is already a lumberjack.
Levi had play tools and a tool belt since he was quite little. He liked to join in on projects. But, don’t most little kids like this stuff?
We didn’t think much of it then.
I’m telling you this piece, because I think when we notice the idea to actively notice our kids’ gifts and reflect them back to them, we start to jump the gun on every little tiny thing they find as play.
Look for consistencies or patterns. They may be really into something and then give it up for awhile for something else… and then return to that first thing.
I’ll be you have some of your own stories here.
What did little YOU love to do—that you’d likely still love to do—that you haven’t done in… forever?!
Don’t seek to notice some life-changing thing. Your job is to just pay attention, observe, and organically speak up when your notice a connection.
It was Christmas 2017 that my parents bought Levi a toy workbench and toolset. He was 4 years old that year.
It’s been a quick, wide ride since then. Levi wanted to upgrade to real tools, not toys, immediately. My husband found some used tools for Levi, upgraded himself new toolboxes (so Levi inherited the old), etc.
Levi was movin’ on up!
Once you regularly have those “I noticed…” check-ins and learn about your child, then it’s time to trust them, nurture those little internal fires, and cultivate the opportunities they have to play in them!
This is where we tend to squash their gifts. We pack their schedules with things we think they should be doing—like trying this new sport or activity (on top of other sports and activities and school) or simply say, “No,” for whatever reasons.
The things Levi does comes with risk. He uses sharp objects and freakin’ POWER TOOLS. He starts fires. And also, he’s awesome at all of it!
Can you imagine if we would’ve told him “no,” because of the dangers?
Can you imagine if we pushed him into other activities he liked, but didn’t LOVE?
What could that have done to his unique gifts? Sure, likely would’ve found other gifts along the way, but this is what we were seeing as his innate drive that makes him jump out of bed EXCITED for what the day brings!
I want my kids tuned into the gifts that make them self-starters. I want you to see those gifts within your kids and help them to turn up the volume!
Levi went from playing with tools, to collecting branches and cutting the tiny branches off with cutters, to dabbling with the sawzall (with help from his parents) by the time he was 5 years old.
Then, Levi found himself a handsaw!
He was OBSESSED. A new way to cut firewood.
This is what I witnessed all winter long. He even got poison ivy on his face, in December, from being out there cutting and hauling wood!
Think of their gifts as things you can stack up.
Think of their gifts like separate colors on a paint palate that can blend into unique creations.
How exciting it is!
This is how they can refine and strengthen a unique perspective. I don’t mean to vilify school, but I believe people move through school like cattle and are produced into workers.
Unique perspective is the currency of the future. The heart and bones of unique perspective is (internal and external) self-awareness and critical thinking.
You may be able to plant little “try this” gems or suggest ideas or resources for what else they can do with their gifts. That said, trust them. Their own drive and curiosity will often lead them to their next, right step!
This section is just for fun. We’ll talk about the power of refining your child’s unique gifts next.
Here, I’ve added a ton of pictures so you can see Levi’s little by little progress over the next year. He went from learning how to make fires and beginning to sawzall trees, to starting (most of) his days making fires on his own and starting to use the freakin’ chainsaw with a parent nearby.
By this point, Levi began learning how to manage the fire and using the sawzall on his own!
Now Levi’s getting the bug for yard work. He was begging for a weed whacker!
Levi took on his first big (mostly solo) project. A huge, mature pine had fell and Levi cut the ENTIRE branches up and hauled the wood to our fire pit himself!
We had a piece of our land flattened for a new fire pit. Levi helped build it from old landscaping stones.
This project literally added fuel to the fire within Levi.
Now he’s bringing the fire inside to our master bedroom’s natural fireplace. At this point, we’re not even helping him. He’s just doing his thing!
Up until now, all he’s done and learned happened around the school schedule. March 2020 of his Kindergarten year, the COVID pandemic gave him a lot more time to “play” (aka work on his gifts!).
It was hard for me to get him to do school work, so mostly, he played and then we’d take short, “school” breaks. This didn’t last long. We decided formal school isn’t for us and made the decision to start unschooling both kids.
He weed whack for the first time ever within weeks of being home from school. By the end of the next month, he’s 100% doing it on his own—and doing it well!
Another day, another project. I’m around, but he’s really doing his own thing.
He’s attempting to carve a bear (new spark!), but quickly realizes he needs some kind of clamp and a bigger saw.
He also mowed the grass for the first time this month—and then does the grass cutting by himself the entire rest of the season! And by that, I mean, he’d ask to cut the grass at least twice each week LOL. The only reason he needs to ask is because he needs help starting it.
His dad got a new chainsaw… Levi noticed the chainsaw on the box and had to have it.
More wood Levi hauled and stacked all by himself. It’s crazy humid in the South Carolina heat, but it didn’t stop him.
The fire pit needed a rebuilt. Dave got him started and he did the rest himself.
He’s learned, the hard way, that we don’t leave tools out in the rain. His drill wasn’t working for him.
A trip to the sawmill… barefoot and all.
Levi and his big sister made their own camp out in the woods complete with a new fire pit on the property.
We’re camping with friends in Pennsylvania and the scene is identical to home.
We visit the National Mall in Washington D.C. We’re there to admire the Washington Monument and Levi’s eyes are locked on the lawn mower nearby.
Now’s he’s getting a hand in building an actual structure.
“Mom, I made the tree better. It’s so pretty!”
Oh snap! Levi’s very own first chainsaw.
We drive 12 hours north to his grandparents’ house in Michigan… and he spends his time collecting sticks for the fire.
Hurricane Zeta blew through South Carolina and uprooted trees everywhere. We drove around to see who we could help and found an elderly couple with a felled, giant oak over their driveway.
He was featured on Fox News’ web stories here.
Every morning—and I mean every morning—he gets the fire going. All the wood you see? Collected and chopped with a hatchet (because he’s too small for an axe) by Levi. All the split palate wood you see? Cut off of big palates and stacked by Levi.
To watch the drive behind Levi’s gifts is riveting!
Most adults I know don’t have this drive… they live the status quo life with little self-awareness, or perhaps, lack of self-trust for their gifts.
Who knows? Maybe by the time he’s 12, he’ll be carving those bears out of logs and selling them. Maybe he’ll have a lawn care service or tree removal business. Maybe, he won’t do anything with this knowledge…
We have no idea what Levi will do with all he’s learned and doing so far.
Here’s the thing:
It’s not about the “what” your child will do…
Even if Levi abandons everything to do with cutting old trees and starting fires, chasing his version of play with gusto will be an innate guiding principle. It’ll be a well-practiced piece of his core.
He will listen to his own voice. He won’t suppress his play.
He will be a self-starter. He won’t be afraid to fail.
He won’t default to playing it safe. He will go for whatever’s in his heart and be resilient when, at times, it doesn’t work out.
At least, that’s what I believe cultivating his gifts is doing for him now. That’s what I want for your child too.
So, as you watch the storyline of your child’s gifts unfold, remember the character traits you’re helping them built when you allow them to play with their gifts, pursue them, and expand from them.
As parents, we want our kids to grow up to live a happy, love-filled life. We want them to have more than enough. We want to see them qualified for all the opportunities that come their way.
We can all agree there, yes?
That’s why each person’s unique gifts matter. And, that’s where your own unique conditioning is something to watch out for. Watch out for when you might be in their way, because of societal or experiential limiting beliefs. It goes without saying, we all have the best interest at heart for our babies, and yet, we can unintentionally get in their way.
It’s not our job to tell them the way to a successful, happy life.
It’s our job to be a mirror for our children… but a lot of us didn’t grow up with that mirror for ourselves. Perhaps where you need to begin is within. I can help with that here.
It’s our job to teach them how to notice when they feel that spark of interest, curiosity, or pure joy by noticing it for them and speaking up. We have to teach them to listen to their own internal voice and guide.
We’ve chosen to unschool our kids in great part, because I think the traditional school system lacks in this area. I could write a whole other thing on this topic alone—and many others have, so I’ve linked to some fabulous books on that here.
Internal & external self-awareness should be its own school subject—valued & practiced as much as math, reading, etc.
Since it’s not, it’s our job, as parents, to be that mirror for our kids and show them how to be self-aware.
Start by noticing the storylines of their unique gifts.
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