Eli Campbell

Parenting involves working with your child to discover just what their talents and interests are. Here, Eli Campbell works on his interest in the culinary arts.

If you are looking for something, you will certainly find it. Wherever we focus our energy, we’ll notice it more and more.

Like when we bought a white minivan years ago, and suddenly, they were the only cars I could see in any parking lot or on the roads. White minivans were taking over the streets! Not that the real number of them had changed, but because I was aware of it, I paid attention and saw them.

This weird function of our brains works for more than just automobile identification. The more we focus on something, the more we see it everywhere. We make connections to it, we anchor it and it spirals into even more space in our consciousness. As parents, we can use this to help our children realize their potential and make the most of what God gave them.

Children come with their own personalities, for sure, but I believe that there is a lot of raw material that can be shaped. We nurture some aspects, and dampen others. What amazing power, given to us mortals!

Aaron and I were always curious about what our babies would become. So much potential, all stuffed into a tiny little eating and sleeping and burping body. As each child grew, we would note that Tori was always happy, or that Emma was very determined. Eli’s sunshiny and sweet personality brought joy to everyone around him, and Ike was always up for a laugh — he has always been a goofball. Madelena was a firecracker from the beginning, and gave us a run for our money. Though I thought having a mini-me or a mini-Aaron would have been fantastic, it was a whole new kid every time. But it wasn’t as if they completely developed on their own. As parents, we have the power to channel their energies as they grew. We would give our attention to traits we wanted them to develop, and downplay their more destructive tendencies.

My friend Jessica and I were talking about how she helps her children to find their purpose in life. It works the same way. But the critical difference is that for kids to feel like they have a purpose, they need to be introduced to the concept. Jessica said that you need to ask the child to think about it and try lots of different ideas out, to see what fits and feels good.

What does the child like to do? What gets her excited? I hadn’t thought of it in such explicit and defined terms, but through the last three years of terminal diagnoses for three of our children and the upset and trauma that it brought to the whole family, we’ve done the same thing.

Chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants are gruesome and traumatic. The pain and suffering were unimaginable. Ike was only 7 when he was hospitalized for two months to undergo the procedures. He didn’t have the background or experience to deal with emotional, psychological and physical demands placed upon him. We had to help him develop the fortitude that he needed.

It came down to having a simple mantra that he could repeat to himself — I can do hard things. After every grueling episode of pain, we would help him identify the things he had done to help himself get through the ordeal. We would talk about how he had proven to himself over and over that even though he didn’t think he could live through another day, he always did. We would reinforce the coping techniques he had used to soothe himself, and help him internalize his mantra.

Pretty soon, he started to believe it, and would look for ways to back up his belief that he could do hard things. Ike missed a year of school during his recovery, and getting back into the swing of learning and tests and homework, he would often feel overwhelmed. But, he had a belief about himself, and it would guide him to do the hard things necessary to catch up.

After her transplant, and due to the progression of her disease, MLD, Madelena acutely felt the loss of her former artsy talents. She didn’t know who she really was without her previously defining abilities. It was painful for us, her parents, to see her adrift and directionless, but we noticed that she loved to serve and help others. Small little acts of kindness on her part brought her some happiness.

We focused our attention on that, and little by little, we reinforced the good feelings she had as she served others. Soon, it was how she defined herself. She loves to serve. She has found her calling. She has been robbed of her other talents, but has found new purpose and meaning in her life.

What power and responsibility we have as parents to guide and shape our little ones. They come with a set of tendencies, but we can help channel their focus and energies so that they can become something magnificent.

Aaron and Emily Campbell, residents of Orem, are the parents of five children, three of which have been diagnosed with the terminal illness MLD. The couple will chronicle their family's experiences through this weekly column. For more information about the Campbell family, check out their blog at www.thechoicelife.org or check out the recent special section "Our Year with the Campbells" at www.heraldextra.com/campbells.

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