Chapter 9 – Every Child Has a Gift

Note to reader:  My hyper son, Charlie, who is featured in my book, is now grown and has a PhD… and three active children of his own.

“So then, who is Tommy?” you might be wondering. Well, you can meet the real Tommy in Chapter One—but maybe you already know a “Tommy.”

Maybe you have a Tommy, or a Tomi. Children like Tommy are everywhere.

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Chapter 9 – Every Child Has a Gift


Four-year-old Charlie approached me with confusion and frustration on his face. He’d been playing with a new Lego set that included the shell of a motorboat. Earlier I had affixed “Police” stickers that made it look like an authentic registered watercraft. Now he asked angrily, “Why did you put the words on backward?”

Baffled, I watched as he compared the word POLICE on each side of the boat, his two little fingers pointing to each corresponding letter, starboard, and port. Suddenly I realized the problem: since he hadn’t learned to read yet, he didn’t know that words are written from left to right. Thus according to him, POLICE on port side should have read ECILOP on starboard side, a mirror image. In his mind’s eye, both of the Ps should have been toward the boat’s bow and the Es toward the stern.

Though he had come to me angry, I realized this little guy was using his analytical mind. He’d made an astute observation and then drawn a logical conclusion. Pretty neat, I thought, as Charlie puzzled over my explanation and went back to building with his plastic bricks.

I watched Charlie happily play, caught up in the creativity of his imagination. The boat was soon surrounded by a plastic brick marina and a host of other watercraft. A few trucks and airplanes were added, and a small town began to emerge around the imaginary lake.

Seeing Charlie at constructive, creative play gave me a glimpse into the future. I began to see that my busy active boy also had a busy active mind which he wanted to use creatively. Now he built cities, he built space stations, he built with bricks, and he built with cardboard. Occasionally, calm began to settle onto our house, for maybe a couple of hours.

Do you wish you could show me the special talent you see in your super-active child? The unique ability that you see but no one else has noticed? Do you long to share it, but you don’t want to boast? Well go ahead. I give you permission to tell it to someone who will share your joy and not think you are bragging. Find that person. Joy is to be shared.

Maybe you haven’t seen it yet, but every child has hidden abilities, special gifts. I’ve known autistic children who became brilliant at history, quiet children who excelled at powers of observation, and mentally handicapped children who possessed the uncanny ability to bring smiles. Please don’t worry while you wait for the talents to be unveiled. Time will reveal their special gifts.

Moreover, every frustrating trait of a child can be reviewed in a positive frame. Is she strong-willed? She’s showing signs of determination, and that’s a good thing. Is he bossy? He has latent leadership abilities just waiting to be developed. Is she a pushover? She’s showing signs of cooperation, a great characteristic to possess. Every negative has a related positive to hold onto. Look for it, and keep looking until you perceive it.

Yet even before you see the gifts, simply by merit of existence, your active child is special and wonderful. Never forget that. You might think, “But you don’t know my child.” It doesn’t matter. Tommy’s value isn’t based on what he has done to win your favor, and Tomi’s perfect behavior isn’t the issue. Like you, all children are intrinsically terrific just because they were born human. Your hyperactive, over-the-top busy child is an amazing treasure.

A vivacious child brings challenges to your life, for sure. You are facing that reality. But in the process, be careful to differentiate between the difficulties (stemming from your child’s active behavior) and his personhood (meaning your child’s precious inner core). Doing this will enable you to acknowledge your love for your child even while you deal with her frustrating disobedience. Do you get that? You can delight in your child’s unique existence and inimitable gifts, even during her high-spirited moments.

Others might not be able to treasure your child like you do. You may be the only one with a vision of what he or she is inside. You may be the only one to recognize the talents. The sweet moments. The dandelion gift. The smile. But you know, and you have the special memories.

The week after we’d celebrated Charlie’s third birthday, Valentine’s Day arrived. In spite of all the challenges, I knew I loved Charlie so much! He was such a precious, valuable little guy, so I wrote him this Valentine, which is still in his baby scrapbook:

Dear Charlie,

I love you and I’m glad God put you in our family. You’re our special wiggle worm, but sometimes you change into a cuddle bug and we cuddle up together. Here’s a heart that says “I love you!”

Love, Mom.

P.S. You are a terrific boy!

I knew it was true. Charlie was a special little boy, and just like all children, he needed his mommy’s love and delight. Delight is crucial for meeting two extremely important needs for children—children need to believe they are loved and they need to know their existence matters. Even a misbehaving child has intrinsic value and needs your love. So look for every opportunity to say, “You are a terrific kid!” because it’s true. Be lavish in delight!


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More free chapter excerpts:

Look Inside – Intro, Chapter 1, Chapter 2

Chapter 4 – Broken Stuff

Chapter 9 – Every Child Has a Gift

Chapter 13 – Fearing the Worst

Chapter 27 – Routine Expectations

Chapter 33 – A Letter From Charlie