One of the things I remember was the way my Dad would sometimes tuck us up onto his lap as kids and talk to us about what we were good at. He’d ask us what we thought our talents were, and each time we suggested something, he’d wholeheartedly agree. He would write the first letter of each talent we named on one of our fingertips. For example, if I told him I thought I was pretty ok at taking care of babies (that was one of my greatest loves as a child), he’d write a big “B” on one finger for “babies,” then an “F” on the next finger for how I could do flips on the trampoline. He’d also add in what he thought we were good at when we got stumped.
It made me happy.
It made me feel capable.
It made me feel secure.
Because really, if my Dad thought I was good at it, then it must be true.
Fast forward to now. Grace (my daughter) and I are reading a book right now (The Report Card) that tells about this fascinating study. The study took a group of kids and tested them on their academic abilities. After the test, the administrators let some of the kids and their teachers know that they were “gifted.” The teachers were told to expect a lot from these particular kids and the kids felt like they were important.
Well, the administrators were right. Those kids excelled dramatically in school. But the interesting thing was that in the end, the people running the study let everyone know that these kids who they had labeled as “gifted” hadn’t tested that way after all. Their names were picked out of a hat of all things.
The difference was that those kids felt exceptional. Someone told them they could succeed. They believed it. Their teachers believed it. So it became true.
I think that’s how life is. If we believe in ourselves, we can make things happen.
And in a way, I think that’s what my Dad was doing when we were young. Writing those talents on our fingertips let us know he believed in us. And we believed him.
Sure, I never became an Olympic gymnast because he wrote that “F” on my finger for my wonderful flips. But I believed I had talents. And I’m thankful for the confidence both my parents had in me even though I was the shyest kid in history.
The other day I got out my ballpoint pen and scooped Claire (my other daughter) up on my lap to talk to her about her talents.
She beamed. She looked just like I remember feeling after getting my fingers all marked up years and years ago.
Delight poured out of her for the next hour, and before long she had her sisters gathered around her on the couch and was telling them about their talents. They were mesmerized.
I hope little traditions like this one will help my children recognize their potential – and help them see the talents and potential of others.
And thank you, dear Dad, for believing in us.
Editors Note: This article was originally published on The Power of Moms website