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A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love (Michael Byron Smith)

Michael Byron Smith shares how his single-parent mom kept her family together through difficult times, how he managed to keep a promise and fulfill a dream, and why mentoring is so important today. We present, “A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love.”

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A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron Smith)How a child is raised has an undeniable impact on his or her success and happiness. Everyone would agree with that, but many ignore it anyway.

Occasionally, children raised in a stressful or unloving atmosphere achieve while others, raised in the same atmosphere, or even in a seemingly ideal situation, do not. However, I think most experts agree, with little doubt, that having two savvy and involved parents is a huge advantage in the mental health of a child. Children without that advantage can succeed, but they will struggle more than necessary. I lived this scenario and I’ve seen others in my family both fail and succeed, but the successes have been far fewer.

Big Job for a Ten-Year-Old

As I turned ten years of age, I was in a situation that required me to babysit my five younger siblings. My father was absent and my mother had to work to support us. She was only 27 years-old with six children to feed. My youngest brother was not even a year old. Thinking back on this is a frightening picture; back then, it was normal to me!

It wasn’t every day that I had to do this, just on occasions when nothing else would work out for my mother. My memories of these days are not totally clear. What I do know is that my father abandoned us. Where he was in the world at that time I do not know. Where and how he spent his earnings, other than on alcohol, is a mystery. But more mysterious to me is how a person could abandon his young children.

Some may think my mother should have never left us alone, but she was without alternatives. I don’t know how she got through the pressures of being a single mom with a tenth-grade education. All I do know is she did not abandon us and worked to exhaustion to raise and support her children.

Not surprisingly, a ten-year-old placed in charge of his brothers and sisters doesn’t get much respect. My eight-year-old brother would challenge me and aggravate everyone else. My five and three-year-old sisters were typical little girls getting into stuff and fighting. My two youngest brothers were a two-year-old toddler and a baby under a year old. Basically, I was there to keep them from injuring themselves or each other; I’d call Mom if someone got hurt badly.

Why am I writing this, exposing my family’s dirty laundry? It is obviously not to brag, nor am I asking anyone to feel sorry for us, but to share a story of hope. Hope, however, needs action – mostly our own action to meet our challenges head-on. It is up to each individual, but many kids don’t know what to do, or how to do it.

I don’t know where we lived when I was ten because we moved quite often, and I didn’t have many childhood friends. Because of this, I was much more comfortable around women than men. Being a shy, skinny, and often new kid, I was like shark-bait to the local bullies common in poorer neighborhoods. My self-defense plan was invisibility, staying indoors or peeking around corners before proceeding. It wasn’t even close to an ideal upbringing.

Tough Beginnings Mean Extra Work

Needless to say, this was not the best start for any young person. The difficulties my siblings and I experienced pale in comparison to the challenges too many young people suffer. But preventable struggles, like struggles caused by my father’s parental neglect, should never happen.

How did we all do coming out of this situation? Beyond the challenges all kids face as they mature, we all had extra demons to defeat, some struggling with those demons more than others. We’ve had teen mothers, a lack of a high school education, truancy, poverty and some minor drug and alcohol use, with following generations dealing with some of the same problems. Of the six of us, three extended families are doing well, while three families are still struggling to one degree or another.

Fortunately, I did not have any of the problems described above, but I did have others. The most challenging to me was a serious lack of confidence in myself. I believe my five siblings also suffered from this and other psychological issues. I broke out of this cycle of despair more successfully than my siblings because of two things: 1) a promise I made to myself and, 2) a dream.

The Power Of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithThe promise was to never be poor! Not to be rich, but not to be poor – an error I will discuss later. My dream was to be a pilot, a dream of many young boys. But in my case, it was more of a passion. I knew that I would have to do it on my own because I didn’t know how to ask for help. Mentoring was not something of which I was aware, and being shy didn’t help. Certainly, someone would have mentored me had we stayed in one place long enough. (I apologize immensely to those I have forgotten who did give me help and advice, especially my many teachers.)

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Being a mentor is a wonderful way to help anyone who could use advice or guidance! My book, The Power of Dadhood, is, in fact, a mentoring book intended to teach fathers to how to mentor their children. It may be obvious, by now, why I wrote this book.

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My dream of being a pilot seemed so distant, like a star in another galaxy, but I kept my focus. This dream supported my goal of never being poor. It is amazing what one can do when they have a dream as a goal backed up by a promise. I also had two distant people that I looked up to: Jack Buck, the announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Jimmy Stewart, my favorite actor and a US Air Force pilot himself. I admired their values and personalities. Never was there a bad word said of either, not by anyone I would respect. It was to my benefit to invent my own mentors because everyone needs role models and teachers.

A Dream, a Promise, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron SmithI succeeded in my keeping my promise and achieving my dream. I have never been poor since the moment I graduated from college. I also became a US Air Force pilot and loved every part of that experience.

But it wasn’t easy! The required steps to make my dreams come true were demanding, but not really the issue. The toughest hurdles in this journey were the exaggerated and fabricated hurdles I put upon myself, thinking I was not worthy! The hurdle of self-worth will also cause one to underestimate their potential. I should have had a goal to be rich; instead, I just hoped to not be poor. I’m doing very well but what if……?

In Closing

My message here is two-fold. The first message is that anyone with a dream can overcome obstacles. That is a common theme of encouragement, but your self-imposed obstructions are the first and most important to overcome. There is no need of having a fifty-pound dead weight on your back when you’re climbing Mt. Everest. This or any other test in life has its very own challenges to conquer and that extra, unnecessary weight could cause you to fail.

The second message is the desperate need today for parents and other mentors to help young people grow. Having proper mentoring and a decent childhood atmosphere will help a child avoid unnecessary burdens. A much easier and effective way to be successful, of course, is to not have those extra burdens in the first place. Children raised in a good, nourishing home will have a head start because their lives have been streamlined, not encumbered with self-imposed friction and speed bumps. If the number one factor in a successful life is self-reliance, a very close second would be the way one is raised and mentored.

I challenge parents and all adults to be aware of the needs of the young people around them. Your help and guidance will save them from being an adversary and/or an obstacle to themselves. It just takes a kind word or a bit of attention. ###

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website]. He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

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May 16, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, courage, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Parents Can Instill a Thirst for Learning (Michael Byron Smith)

Michael Byron Smith, The Power of Dadhood, Helping Fathers to be DadsHave you ever witnessed the look in a child’s eyes when the light bulb comes on? Adrenaline rushes in the moment he or she understands something which once puzzled, frustrated, or mystified them, accompanied by a great boost to their confidence. These moments are so important because success always begets more success. However, a child will have few opportunities to feel that rush or become more confident if not properly challenged intellectually. Let’s look at how parents can instill a thirst for learning.

photo by Michael Byron SmithBy challenged, I mean being introduced to new things which have to be studied to be understood. To a toddler it could be putting shapes in similarly shaped openings. As they mature, it could be building their own shapes, or houses, or cars with Legos and Lincoln Logs. Learning, like infinity, never ends. Experiencing it, like infinity, you may need a rocket ship. Parents can be rocket ships for their children for there will always be new discoveries to be found, studied, and conquered.

The stars of our galaxy are a wonderful way to stir the imagination. It could be explained that the North Star, the Big Dipper or other constellations helped early travelers find their way. Chemistry sets and microscopes are great tools to learn science, such as how to make slime or crystals, or how to see microscopic objects invisible to the naked eye. Each step of learning advances a child to a higher level of knowledge and a stronger desire to learn more. And don’t forget to take your kids to the local zoo or science center! Better yet, teach them about animals before you go. They will be fascinated.

I remember how astonished I was when I learned I could measure the exact height of a tree without climbing to the top and dropping a tape measure from the top branch to the ground. It was simple trigonometry. By finding a point away from the tree where the top of the tree was at a 45-degree angle from the ground, I knew the height of the tree was the same as the distance to the tree. I then wanted to learn more ways trigonometry worked to solve more mysteries.

Photo by Michael Byron SmithI haven’t even mentioned to greatest tool to a child’s imagination, that being reading! Reading to toddlers, or even babies fascinates them. They see the writing and the pictures and know they are related. Even the comfort of being on your lap and having your attention relates reading to being safe and loved. What better way to introduce a child to learning. As they get older, children want to be able to translate a written string of letters to understandable thoughts and descriptions, just like mom and dad can do.

Late Starts in Learning Can Be a Terrible Burden
But what about the child who is never read to, not to mention never having a learning tool like a chemistry set with simple experiments any parent can teach. They are left unaided to stimulate their imaginations which become a distinct disadvantage compared to their peers, those who have had loving attention and mentoring. Even though some children are born with more active imaginations than others, every child will be helped by outside stimulation. And although their schools are a key place to stimulate the imaginations of kids, the real joy of learning is discovered in the years prior to formal learning. Not surprisingly, it is the parents who are the key parties in challenging their children during these early years.

Very important in raising more than one child is to understand their different paces in learning and varied interests. Some kids will be more challenging than others, but they must not be compared. You want to challenge the fast learner and the slow learner at different rates but with similar degrees of challenge, i.e. where they will succeed, but not too easily. When over challenged, kids will get frustrated and want to quit. If under challenged, kids will be bored and disinterested in moving forward.

photo by Michael Byron Smith, parents are key teachersIf you are lucky, your child will find a passion. A child with a passion is like putting them in cruise control towards their love of further discovery. They will be driven by their interest and not by your prodding. With a passion comes a desire to learn more and more. A passionate child will more often live in the moment and not brood about the past or future.

The Dry Sponge Theory
Lastly, remember this when your child complains about not quite understanding a subject in school. Have him take the next higher level course and while he may struggle again, he will look back at the last level with more understanding. For instance, let’s say your child struggles with multiplication. If they graduate and then learn algebra, it follows that when she looks back to multiplication, multiplication won’t seem as difficult any longer.

I call this the ‘Dry Sponge Theory.’ (I discuss it in more detail in my book, The Power of Dadhood: Become the Father Your Child Needs.) A dry sponge absorbs quite a bit of moisture. However, when a sponge is totally wet, it won’t absorb anything more. A larger sponge will have room for more absorption. Taking algebra makes your learning sponge for multiplication bigger, allowing a capacity for more understanding. It follows that no one is an expert at the level they are studying. They become experts at a level two or three steps lower than where they are currently studying. For instance, sixth graders would be considered experts in fourth-grade subjects…and so forth.

Michael Byron Smith, The Dry Sponge Theory

Your kids may not be convinced of the ‘Dry Sponge Theory’, but hopefully you will be convinced to push them forward. The ‘Dry Sponge Theory’ works similarly for topics that may bore your child like Art Appreciation or History. They may not become historians, but their learning sponge will have increased in size and, therefore, in capacity. Other topics will fall more easily into place. I am convinced of this.

Summary
Parents are key teachers in the most important early learning years–when the sponge of a child’s brain is insatiably thirsty. Introduce interesting things to them. Challenge them. Make learning fun and look for a passion that may pull them forward. And finally, if they aren’t passionate about learning, keep pushing them. Knowledge and the thirst for learning are so important for their futures! ###

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithArticle and photographs by Michael Byron Smith, author of The Power of Dadhood [website]
Helping Fathers to be Dads blog

 

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Educators, family, Healthy living, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | , , , , , , | 1 Comment