Last week my husband sent me a link to a video that was not only funny, but touching as well -- I was actually crying tears of joy by the end of it. Maybe you've seen it, too? It's a video showing a group of ducks, rescued from an animal hoarder, experiencing water for the first time. At first they're not sure what to make of the pond, but then suddenly, they get it. It's as if they're thinking "Wow! My weird webbed feet and all these feathers totally make sense now!" (Click here to see it.)
I've been thinking about this video all week because I've realized it's a truly great metaphor for life. All of us need to find our pond -- the thing we're meant to do, the place we're meant to be. And our kids need to find their ponds, too.
Here's a great example. I have a nephew who most people would describe as "high energy." Or, as my husband puts it, "all thrust, no vector." He's a really sweet 8-year-old, with a genuinely bright mind, who only has two settings -- "on" and "off". This sometimes gets him into trouble, especially at school, although he never has bad intentions. He's just trying to manage all that energy in his body. He's tried out a few sports and liked them well enough, but this season my brother signed him up for football for the first time. After the first two weeks of practice I asked him if he was enjoying it, and his response was "Oooh, yesssss!" So yesterday we went and watched one of his games, and it was like watching one of those ducks in the video dipping his head and flapping his wings -- he was in his pond! For him, all of his physical energy and impulses suddenly make sense.
Unfortunately, as adults, it's up to us to find our own ponds -- nobody is coming to rescue us and take us to them. As a starting point, we need to think about some key questions: What are we really good at? When do we feel like life makes sense? Where are we at peace? The answers are different for each of us, and can be deceptively difficult to find. I don't think I even knew these questions mattered until I was well into my 20s, and even then I didn't have the first clue about the answers until I was in my 30s. The difficulty for me was that my parents both had very strong ideas about who I was and who I should be, so my true abilities and desires were buried. When I did finally start figuring things out, though --- ahhh, it was like a warm bath!
And even if we're still searching for our own ponds, how great would it be if we could help our kids answer these questions early in their lives? I don't mean the heavy "What do you want to be when you grow up?" types of questions, but the more basic questions that will help them answer the bigger ones later on. What do they enjoy doing now? When do they feel most happy and calm? For both of my boys, their answers are literally "being in the water" -- Sam loves swimming, and Ben loves diving. Also, Sam loves reading and needs some time alone every day; Ben is more social, and has a natural care-taking instinct. As they grow older, I'll need to help them continue to identify their personal strengths and loves so they can uncover their paths to fulfilling, joyful lives. The hard part of this is making sure to stay in the role of "facilitator" -- I can't find the answers for them.
So where is your pond? Is it a place, a hobby, a profession? How did you find it? And have your kids found theirs yet? Share it here -- maybe your story can help someone else find the place where they feel like flapping their wings...!