finding their sweet spot

I like animals, but I wouldn’t say I am especially drawn to them.

I was given the gift of mothering a young man that lives and breathes all things nature and animal.

He dreams about common animals and exotic ones.

He knows a million random facts about animals and insects I’d never heard of until he introduced me to them.

His presence in our family has resulted in a flock of chickens, fish, a cat and a dog.

All my kids cherish the pets in our home, but my 8 year old – there is just something different. His unique skills and passions are most evident when nature and animals come into the picture.

2.15zones-01About four years ago, Chris came home and shared with me something one of his mentors shared with him. It was the concept that when our skills and passions intersect with opportunities we find our ‘sweet spot’. Chris and I have talked about that concept a lot in recent years as we make decisions regarding work, dreams, and future plans. In the past, we’ve talked about it related to us as adults. Although, I think in many ways it has been an underlying theme of how we approach parenting.

Lately, it has been on my mind more.

How can I help my kids discover their skills? How can I help them recognize their passions? How can I find opportunities for them where they experience what it feels like when those skills and passions intersect?

I know a lot of adults that don’t know what they are good at or what they are passionate about in life. For most of us, it takes an outside influence (a parent, a friend, a mentor) to help us discover those things or point out what they see in us. I know that thankfully parenting doesn’t end when my kids are no longer under my roof. However, I also know the quantity of time I have with them will most likely be greatest during the first two decades of their lives. It is an exciting adventure to get to watch them and help them discover those unique skills and passions early in life. It is even more exciting to me to think about exploring ways and opportunities for them to experience it all intersecting.

2.15zones-03It will look totally different for each kid, which makes it both incredibly challenging and fun.

For my 8 year old – he is an animal whisperer. Right now his skills and passions intersect when he is given the opportunity to own a pet. It seems ordinary and simple today, but cuddling on the couch with his dog is only the beginning. Skills. Passions. Opportunities. Walking alongside my kids as they discover their ‘sweet spots’ is walking the good life. Parenting is my favorite adventure.2.15zones-02

back to top share on facebook tweet this post pin site image email a friend
  • Tracy R. - Oh my! This post hit a homerun for me! We have 3 girls who are all SO very different. My husband and I have discussed how different they are, analyzed their personalities and their passions, strengths and weaknesses yet this intersection you described hits the nail on the head, giving me that “ahhh haaaa” moment. Thank you kindly!

  • Romy - And what a skill he was!! I am now 34 and I can only find my balance and happiness when surrounded by animals. It has been like that all of my life, and I have dedicated my career and my life to protect them. It makes me terribly sad to see them suffer, and this is the bittersweet part of being a grown up that takes care of animals. You should go with him alone on a Safari trip to Africa! Dreams, dreams…

  • Mrs.T - Beautiful post! I remember feeling this way about my own kids (now all grown, and parents themselves) — just wanting to help them find their gifts and strengths and the joy in using them to the glory of God.

    You and Chris are such amazing parents. Thanks for sharing slices of your life with all of us.

  • Sam - This comment is only partially related to your post…hope you don’t mind! πŸ™‚

    Just wondering if you have ever heard of the book ‘My Family and Other Animals’ by Gerald Durrell? I would definitely check it out! It might be a good ‘read-out-loud’ book (though some parts may have to be skipped)…I have a feeling your 8 year old would enjoy it πŸ™‚

    Sam xo

  • brittony - yes. incredible how different kids can be when raised by the same people. so great to nurture and pull out the best in each of them and try not to compare their strengths and weaknesses! love how naturally that comes for you and your family.

  • Rachelle - Loved this post Ashley! Have you heard of clicker training for animals? It’s a positive reinforcement training method that you can use to teach a dog new tricks and commands. Youtube has a ton of videos on this. I had so much fun doing this with my dog….I think your 8 year old would love it!

  • Jeanne - A lovely, lovely post and spot on. Thank you for highlighting this for me, truly,thank you.

  • Nanette - I love this! My oldest (11) has the same love for animals and wants to study to become a zoologist. What I think is amazing is that my grandfather had this same passion for animals. Although the 2 of them could not spend much time being physically together, they would email back and forth about different animal facts and species. I really think it is in his genetic make up! I think helping children find their passions is the greatest gift a parent can give them.

  • Cindy - very well said! you have such a powerful way with words (and photos) thanks for sharing a wonderful message!

  • Nicole - Sounds like parenting is your sweet spot.

  • Emily - Not that I want to add this to your plate, but if you wrote a parenting book (much better: a parenting MEMOIR) I’d buy it. I’d buy multiple copies, in fact, and press them on my friends πŸ™‚ Posts like this are exactly the reason I read your blog every day. Thank you for sharing.

  • Angela - That last like….”parenting is my favorite adventure”. Wow. I sure do love that. So good and true. My parents were amazing, but they never called out the gifts and passions they see in me. Now at 30 years old, it’s really hard to figure out what I’m good at and what direction I should go in. Often I just wish I had someone who could sit down and tell me what to do with myself…. I have 3 kids of my own. At least I can call out the gifts I see in them!

  • babs - hoped y’all watched the westminister dog show . I thought of you when a female beagle won best in show. If you missed it,plenty of pictures and stories on web.

  • Shannah - This is the first time I’ve commented though I’ve been reading your blog for years. It touched me to see your little man loving on those animals. I, too, was an ardent animal lover and read everything I could get my hands on — check out books by James Herriot and Gerald Durrell when he gets older! And Doctor Dolittle now! πŸ™‚ — I love animals with a deep passion and was sure I’d be a wildlife vet. Until I took advanced chemistry. No way. My brain is too artsy and literary and not enough math. I did a lot of searching for vocation, and I wanted to share a quote from Frederick Buechner that spoke to me: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I’ve ended up as a special education teacher and love my job and my children so much. Anyway, something was telling me to share. πŸ™‚ thank you for your daily posts that bless our lives!

  • Brandi - This is exactly how I think of my job as a parent! I know I heard growing up the push to be a doctor, a lawyer, something professional, something that symbolizes success. It makes me so sad now that I didn’t listen to my own voices and follow my own passions sooner. I hope my kids will have the confidence to follow their own dreams!

  • emily - Love this. Such a great reminder that we are all wired differently for a reason!

  • Jacque - I’m just going to put a giant “DITTO” to Emily’s comment above. Thank you for sharing this nugget of wisdom.

  • Caroline - Outta curiosity, what passage did you journal that beside in your Bible? Love that and would like to do the same! πŸ™‚

  • Jenny B. - Great thoughts. It’s wonderful that you can already see these things in him. I think it’s sometimes really hard to identify what my boys are good at and what their passions are. Some talents are more outwardly visible than others. My oldest is pretty good at a lot of things, but I think one of his main gifts might be his sensitivity (which can also be a weakness, or maybe not a “weakness,” but a source of frustration for him). That’s not a tangible quality, though, and it’s hard to know how to nurture it in him. So, anyway, I agree it is challenging. πŸ™‚

  • Krystin Robertson - That is so precious. My sister is the same way. She has had a hamster and guinea pig for pets. Any dog that she comes in contact with just falls in love with her. It has been so sweet to watch her grow and realize that she wants to do something with animals as a career. She’s only 17, but she has a gift with them.

  • Pam - I would be very interested to see a follow-up(s) to this post as you venture further. My sons are 13 and 12 and this is something that constantly weighs heavy on my heart and in my mind. Thanks for sharing.

  • AmandaK - Love how you put this into words that I have felt! I read this post to my family last night and we all discussed what skills and passions we saw in each other. Thanks for the conversation maker.

  • AshleyAnn - Amanda – I love that you talked about this as a family. I need to do that now!