For my birthday in January my brother gave me the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I can say with certainty that it has had more influence on me than any other book - ever - and quickly claimed a spot in my top five.
Outliers dissects the lives of successful people by analyzing the factors that contribute to their success. It immediately had me thinking back to a post that I wrote in 2008 titled Thoughts on Greatness. In that post I thought about the greatest people who have ever lived and wondered, were they predestined for that greatness? Or was it all just a random (yet perfect) aligning of circumstances? These ideas have fascinated me for years and so I found Outliers to be absolutely captivating. One thing I was reminded of after reading it is that we need to work for success...and that when life presents an opportunity it needs to be taken advantage of.
And so I have become an extremely demanding mother. I see my children and the opportunities they have been blessed with in life and refuse to let it all go to waste. Where I used to think,
'Oh, Lorelai went straight to the gym after school and didn't get home until 8:30, I won't make her read.'
I now say,
'Lorelai, you have to go to the gym straight after school and won't be home until 8:30, so wake up early so you can get your reading done.'
My view on childhood has completely changed. I used to view it as a time for children to enjoy being carefree and act on their whimsy. But now I see it as a prep period. This is their prep period for life. This is the time to learn discipline, develop talents, gain confidence, set goals, and figure out who they are. Now is the time to prepare them so that when they turn 18 they are ready to venture out into the world, completely capable of managing themselves and their affairs.
On Friday Elsa was in the music parlor practicing piano. There were some mistakes in the piece she was learning. I told her the problem was with some of the notes as well as the counting. Her timer went off but I explained that she couldn't leave until she corrected the mistakes. She sat and sat and kept asking for me to just show her.
'No,' I said, 'this is something we have gone over before. You need to think it through, solve this on your own. If I just show you, you won't be building problem solving skills. Plus, I would take away the joy that you will feel when you fix the problem and get it right all on your own.'
So she kept sitting and kept working. There were some tears - and a lot of frustration. But I would not bend. I now see each day and each experience as an opportunity for my children to grow in intellect and character.
In the late morning she approached me and asked me to come to the parlor and listen. I did....and it was perfect. Oh, how she beamed! Then she reached over and gave me the tightest hug along with a 'thank you, mom'. She understood why I had made her stick with it and she felt the joy I told her she would feel - a joy that comes from conquering a difficult feat and knowing you never gave up. It was a simple yet profound lesson, one that I am sure will carry on with her to adulthood.
**Stay tuned for more posts in my Outliers inspired series.