Lyndon Johnson was a bright young boy, taking after his mother who had always loved literature. At an early age, he would do performances of some of her favorite poems—with a level of comprehension and mastery that stunned people who got to see it, including his mother, who struggled out in the lonely, often uncultured Texas Hill Country.
“I’ll never forget how much my mother loved me when I recited those poems,” Johnson later said. “The minute I finished she’d take me in her arms and hug me so hard I sometimes thought I’d be strangled to death.”
Do you have something like that with your kids? Something they do that warms your heart? That makes you so proud? Because they’re picking up where you left off? Because they are showing so much promise? Wonderful.
But be careful.
As Johnson recounts, it was not such a dream to be “mama’s special boy.” The expectations were unfair. It made him feel like he had to earn her love, or that her pride for him was conditional. Because while things were wonderful when he was succeeding, they felt terrible when he failed—like when he decided to stop playing the piano or dancing. “For days after I quit those lessons,” he remembered, “she walked around the house pretending I was dead. And then I had to watch her being especially warm and nice to my father and sisters.”
Was it really as bad as that? We hope not, but we don’t know. Clearly it felt bad, which is really all that matters. It’s a sobering reminder to all of us parents: Your kids are special because they’re special. You love them because you love them. Not because they can do little tricks for you, not because they’re little stars. How you feel about them and how you treat them can’t change whether they’re easy or whether they’re trouble, whether they’re succeeding or failing.
They don’t need to earn your affection. Or rather, they already have… just by being born.