strengths and fears; Mulan and Hans and the Witch

I can’t stop talking about ‘Mulan.’

The first new release online in months, many of us happily dropped $30 to watch the live remake of the beloved animated film.

An unusual movie in many ways, there’s plenty of controversy surrounding the film. Still, I loved it and highly recommend you watch if only for the lessons on parenting.

Quick recap: as a child, Mulan exhibits natural gifts in horsemanship, weaponry, and martial arts. Her parents are terrified she’ll be considered strange and ostracized from the community. They encourage her to hide her true self.

Their actions seem cruel in the movie, yet we all taught to conform and we all teach our children to adhere to the rules of society. And of course we need to teach our children. They need to learn to wear shoes and wait their turn and eat off a plate and wash that plate and don’t hit and this is how you write your name and 2+2=4.

And in the midst of all that (mostly necessary) correction, most children conclude there’s something wrong with them, something deep in their core that simply doesn’t measure up. We are told we are too shy, too loud, too hyper, too slow, too emotional, too messy. No one fits into the narrow little box of ‘just right.’

So how can we teach our kids the thousands of necessary life skills without quenching their spirit? Focus on their strengths.

Yet, as parents (and our parents before us and their parents before them…), we too often act out of fear. We are afraid we’ll be judged, we’ll afraid our kids, won’t fit in, we’re afraid our kids won’t be successful. This plays out in big choices like the stereotypical lawyer dad who does not want his son to attend art school, or in small ones where a mom warns her child of wearing that ‘weird’ outfit to school. So often, we are acting out of our own fear. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again– parents are influenced more by peer pressure than their children.

When my Hans was three years old, I decided he should become a cellist. I already had two violinists (overly ambitious, I know) and I loved the idea of creating my own little string quartet. But Hans really struggled with the cello.

One day I was out running and praying (as you do) and I prayed, “Heavenly Father, teach me how to parent this boy, to be more patient, how to teach him to play the cello.”

In one profound moment, in a flash of pure knowledge, I received my answer to that prayer. For just a brief instant, I saw Hans as a magnificent, glorious child of God with infinite potential. The moment stopped me in my tracks and nearly brought me to my knees, I cried all the way home. I’d been given stewardship over this beautiful soul and I’d been spending my time focusing on his weaknesses.

Obviously, we quit the cello and I examined many of my decisions in parenting: was I just trying to make myself look good or was I doing what was best for my child? And if you know 23 year old Hans, you know he’s incredibly kind, talented, brilliant and yeah, the kind of kid who makes me look like a really good parent.

It’s a lesson I’ve had to reapply over and over for the last twenty years. My kids have big personalities; they love to step outside the box and I’ve had to let go of my fears and let them be their magnificent selves.

Let’s go back to the new ‘Mulan’ movie. The live-action version adds a new character, a witch with very similar abilities as Mulan. Because the witch was forced to hide her abilities, she’s become cruel, destructive and easily manipulated by evil influences.

And that’s exactly what happens to our kids when we don’t allow them to be themselves. Each person on this earth is a child of God with unique gifts and capabilities. Anger, cruelty, fighting and misbehavior stem from repressing those true gifts (and this is getting really long, so I just recorded a podcast going into more detail).

Yes, we need to socialize our children, yes we need to teach them a thousand tiny skills so they can be functioning members of the human race. But in all the picking up and washing up, going to school and joining the team, are we taking time to help our kids discover their strengths? To remind them they are loved? To admire and cherish these incredible souls in our own home?

Maybe no one did this for you. Maybe you spent your childhood being chastised and criticized. Maybe you feel there’s something deep in your core that simply doesn’t measure up. Let’s change that. Now.

You are a child of the Almighty God. You have divine gifts and talents you are meant to use. You were created for a purpose. You are loved and you are on the right path.*

We’re in an unprecedented time. It’s a time of sorrow and upheaval but it’s also the perfect time for reinvention, to step into your superpowers. We need heroes right now; we need your unique gifts. Honestly, it’s a bit selfish if you hold back.

Take some time to write down your strengths, take time to write down your children’s strengths and then tell them what you see. Ask questions, explore solutions and let go of fear. God holds you in His hands. He has work for you. He has work for your children. The battle is raging. We need you.

*call me if you don’t believe me

September 14, 2020
September 23, 2020