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It’s impossible to adequately define the connection we have to our kids — this deep, knowing connection. The best way I can describe it: a light.
My son, like other kids, has a bright light — a spark that clearly belongs to him. It is him. I felt it and recognized it even before he was born. I got to know it well through nursing sessions and bath times and long nights of rocking him to sleep. And no matter how his face thins, or his limbs stretch, or his interests evolve as he grows into a big kid, his core “self” is unchangeable. He will always have that same familiar light.
Maybe our connection with our children’s light is the most important one we have. We have the unique opportunity to connect with them on the deepest of levels and nurture who they are, not who we want them to be, or who we think they should be, or what society says they probably are.
To allow them to be themselves.
I’m willing to bet that’s made all the difference in the Citizen Kid story of Sam, a 12-year-old CEO of a recycling company that he founded at age nine. In the below video, you’ll see a little boy who is clearly bright and mature beyond his age — and most likely has a killer business career ahead of him. (If he can come up with such a genius recycling business before his 10th birthday, what will he be capable of after college?)
But what I also see is a mother who paid attention to her little boy.
I see a mother who recognized her son’s fascination with the garbage truck and the entire waste removal system, and didn’t hush him or belittle his admiration. Instead, based on his persisting interest, she arranged for him to tour a local garbage company for his sixth birthday party. She went the extra step in arranging a ride-along in a garbage truck (an experience Sam says he’ll never forget). She answered his endless questions and encouraged his curiosity, no matter how out-of-the-box it may have seemed.
And when Sam’s business idea took off (he works with local businesses to recycle their old electronics like cell phones, laptops, and laser toners), he decided to donate ALL OF HIS PROFITS to charity because doing otherwise would be, in his words, “selfish.” Initially I would have assumed that was the result of good parenting, or at least intense parental pressure to “teach a lesson,” but his mom has a different story.
“Sam has an incredible generosity of spirit,” she says in the video. “And I believe that that was how he was made and how he came into the world. And I knew it from when he was a baby. He has unbelievable depth and compassion beyond his young years.”
I relate to that. I recognize certain character traits about my own son — like his insatiable curiosity and gentle, empathetic heart — that I’ve known since he was an infant. And no matter what I expected him to be, or what I might project onto him, he came into this world a certain way.
Maybe all kids do.
And Sam’s story is a reminder to recognize it. What started as a little boy watching a smelly garbage truck each morning has turned into a profitable business, an important environmental cause, and a real-life business lesson that he never could have learned in school.
I think Sam’s mom paid attention to the extraordinary beaming out of the ordinary.
Maybe our kids aren’t destined to be CEOs at age 9, and maybe they wouldn’t have the innate generosity to choose charity over the toy store. But recognizing and nurturing the light inside of our kids — whatever that may mean — just might encourage more Citizen Kids to use their potential for good.
Be your best self every day with Milk. Post a video or photo of your child making the most out of life and tell us how it makes them a #CitizenKid.