“The potential possibilities of our child are the most intriguing we will ever witness in all of creation. The awakening of those potentialities is our most important responsibility as a parent”—John “John A” Warnick
As a child I was fascinated by totem poles. Some were scary; others inviting. But each was colorful and unique.
Our children and grandchildren are as unique as a totem pole. As the poet Wordsworth wrote in his Ode “Intimations of Immortality” each child comes “trailing clouds of glory”. Each child/adult’s “exterior semblance doth belie” the “soul’s immensity.” Within the immensity of the human soul lie wondrous gifts and talents, waiting to be uncovered and developed with a lifetime of patience and persistence.
Our biggest opportunity as parents and grandparents is to believe in the divine worth of our children and grandchildren. And the awakening of the potentialities within our child is our biggest responsibility. We start by helping our child/grandchild understand “God doesn’t make junk”. We also need to nurture their confidence and resilience. The Growth Board can be a key tool to assist us in these tasks. But before I share the exciting possibilities of a Growth Board, let’s explore the meaning of the totem pole.
The art forms, faces, figures and stories represented on totem poles were part of the tribal legacy. Often the accomplishments of an individual and the rights acquired during his lifetime were chronicled on the totem pole.
may have fond memories of your mother or father placing a pencil mark on the
wall in your kitchen or bedroom. On each
birthday I had to stop wiggling long enough for my mom to be able to draw a
line, note the height and date. And,
then my parents would point with pride to the fact I had grown a couple of
That height chart was preserved when the kitchen was repainted. But then I left home and eventually my parents sold the home and the record of my physical growth was lost. What if there was a way to chronicle not just the physical growth of a child, but to create a lasting reminder of your child’s greatest accomplishments? That is what I call the Growth Board.
This idea was sparked by a practice I learned about from a very accomplished man, who along with his wife, found a way to profoundly encourage their children. He chose a finely grained piece of wood, soft enough to carve. On the “board” as he called it, he would place a knotch, with the date and his child’s height, to mark a special event or achievement in their life journey. But that wasn’t the only thing they did with the “board”. They would carefully choose words of inspiration. Perhaps a quote, a scripture, or even something remarkable the child uttered. For one son who was so timid he wouldn’t even walk into a store and talk to a teller or clerk, he carved the words “Bold as a Lion” along with the image of a large lion roaring. In time his son found the courage to overcome his timidity.
With another son he climbed a high mountain but fatigue overcame his son and they never attained the peak. Instead of allowing disappointment to mar that memory, the father saw a way to chronicle their time together. He carved an image of an Eagle on the board and found a quote that talked of “Soaring Like an Eagle”.
Imagine what the Growth Board tradition might mean in a family. In a family room or den there are several generations of Growth Boards displayed, a visible reminder to the rising generations of the family of the family’s tradition of seeking to develop the gifts we have been blessed with and overcoming our weaknesses and the adversity which inevitably is part of our life journey.
A Growth Board doesn’t have to be limited to fathers and sons. Mothers and daughters should be a part of the Growth Board tradition. Nor need it be limited to parents. Even grandfathers and grandmothers can start today to create this Family Totem Pole. May yours be colorful, meaningful and created with love and your abiding faith in the goodness and unique gifts your children and grandchildren have been blessed with.
“When you put faith, hope and love together, you can raise positive kids in a negative world”—Zig Ziglar