Does it mean anything to you if I say, “I am not throwin’ away my shot!”?
If not, then you clearly aren’t as obsessed with the musical, Hamilton, as my children are. Brett discovered the music to the Broadway play, Hamilton, over a year ago and fell in love. That led to purchasing the Hamilton soundtrack* which led to putting together a “safe” playlist that all the children could listen to which led to a trip to New York City to see the show.
Anyway – my children are thoroughly inquisitive (yeah, homeschooling!) and they’ve been asking me questions non-stop about Alexander Hamilton, the Revolutionary War, and the Constitution.
I know most of the answers (yeah, me!), but there are quite a few, I didn’t know. Since I never want to stop learning, I decided to purchase the book that inspired the Broadway play – Alexander Hamilton* by Rob Chernow.
It’s a very long book. Seriously long. As in 731 pages long.
I wasn’t a bit daunted. Ok, maybe I was a bit daunted (I usually read and walk around the living room to get my 10,000 daily steps and I can’t even hold this book up for too long).
But I was not going to give up because I love books about history – even if they are 731 pages long.
Hamilton’s life was amazing, and I drew lots of connections to my own life. One (of the many) traits that impressed me was the fact that even when Hamilton was really sick, he didn’t let that stop him from doing what he felt needed to be done. On page 84 it says:
“In his waning days as an artillery captain, Hamilton confirmed his reputation for persistence despite recurring health problems. He lay bedridden at a nearby farm when Washington decided to recross the Delaware on Christmas night and pounce on the besotted Hessians drowsing at Trenton. Hamilton referred vaguely to the ‘long and severe fit’ of illness, but he somehow gathered up the strength to leave his sickbed and fight.”
It made me question where he gathered that strength from, because if I were really sick, the last thing I’d want to do is go out, cross the freezing Delaware, and attack a bunch of Hessians.
Yet, that’s exactly what Hamilton did. Alexander Hamilton had a very rough childhood and built a lot of internal strength, character, and fortitude. He used that to do amazing things even when he was very sick.
As I thought about that, my thoughts drifted to my children who have had a pretty ideal childhood (in my opinion). Yes, they work hard, but is that enough?
Am I teaching my children to have internal strength?
Am I teaching my children to do the hard things even if they’re not feeling well?
Am I teaching my children how to face adversity and triumph?
I’d like to think the answer to all of those questions is, “Yes.” And as I thought about it, I decided there were three areas where my parenting could help my children develop inner strength, even without a difficult childhood.
1. Do I make excuses for my children so they can avoid difficulty? Nope – my children know the score living on a farm with a large family. If you’re responsible for something, you’re responsible. There are no excuses made because you don’t feel well or have something you want to do instead.
I can easily recall times when Colter and Emery were sick with a stomach bug and would still need to milk the goats. That may sound harsh to some people, but I am growing future adults here, not future children. Animals need to be taken care of (just like babies and children need to be taken care of even if Mom is sick).
And don’t worry about the boys, once they were done milking and feeding the goats, they got plenty of loving and nursing to help them get better.
2. Do I give my children chances to fail? Yes, sometimes I purposely give them tasks that I don’t think they can handle. I need them to learn how to push through the failure, learn from their mistakes, and learn how to seek help so they don’t continue to fail.
One example was when Hewitt was little and I asked him to fill the goats’ feeder with oats. Of course, he couldn’t pick up and carry a 50 pound bag. I watched him for a while try to carry it or drag it. He even tried to put it on a dolly (but the bag was not rigid enough to stay on). I didn’t ride into the rescue. Instead I stood aside, watched him get frustrated, then watched him find Colter to help him.
Colter showed him how since he couldn’t carry the bag, he could open it and carry smaller buckets at a time. And you can bet that Hewitt can now carry a 50 pound bag, he wasn’t going to let a bag of oats get in his way!
3. Do I challenge my children to accomplish more than they think they can? Always. This holds true more for some of the children than others. Some of them have an “I can do anything” attitude and they were born with it. But others are a little hesitant to try something new for fear that they won’t succeed.
It’s those children who need to be challenged the most.
I do this with different chores around the house or different school assignments. But my preferred method is making them speak or interact in public in a way they are not comfortable with. For the little ones, it starts with praying out loud at church where others can hear them. As they get older, it’s explaining to a group what their job is on the farm.
I also have them all learn to make phone calls to schedule their own appointments (they hate that!) And the oldest ones are going to networking events where they regularly have to meet and and talk to complete strangers. This is not something that they are super comfortable with, but I’m always challenging them to just be a little bit out of their comfort zone.
Does this mean they would Rise Up from their sickbed to cross the Delaware River in the middle of the night?
I would like to think that if it was something of importance, every one of my children would sacrifice their own desires and comfort to do what was right. I am always reminding them that they “can do all things through Christ who strengthens them.” But in my experience God usually strengthens them and works through them after they’ve actually taken the first step.
I learned a lot of lessons from the life of Alexander Hamilton, but this is one that I definitely want to pass on to my children:
Being sick or not feeling your best is never a good thing and when necessary you need to take care of yourself. But there are times you can’t let not feeling well stop you. You need to rise up and do what is right – even if it is a sacrifice.
What about you? What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do when you were sick?