While visiting the LBJ Memorial Library in Austin, Texas, I became keenly aware of the role Mama Johnson played in her son’s life. Following the life story of Lyndon Baines Johnson through annotated photographs, I had an epiphany. Lyndon wasn’t born in presidential shoes, he was a baby and toddler who cried when he was unhappy and whimpered when he didn’t get his way. He was a teen who argued with his parents and challenged their discipline. But Mama Johnson took her role seriously while grooming young Lyndon into a leader, a diplomat and ultimately the President of the United States. With foresight she saved the highlights of his childhood and growing accomplishments in organized folders knowing she was grooming her son for successful future.
The Johnson’s may have had an advantage. Their wealth and political influence certainly helped lead the way to LBJ’s future, but he would not have been the man he was without the childhood building blocks of integrity, self-confidence and independence his mother instilled upon him. She groomed a son for his future, challenging him to rise above his academic difficulties and to pursue his political passion.
As an educator and family coach, I often face parents anxious about their children’s futures. With tear filled eyes they focus on the academic and social challenges their children face. I find myself too often reminding them that it is not our job to raise the perfect child, but to help our children find their passion and to love them unconditionally.
Little Lyndon was not perfect. He struggled all the way through school. But Mama Johnson focused on discovering his passion and paving the path to success.
We all want our children to be successful too, and the the road to success begins at infancy. We surround our babies with colorful stimulation, musical sounds and warm embraces. As they grow, we talk and read to them building their language skills and encouraging exploration while keeping them safe and loved.
Yes, there are challenges like colicky babies and fussy eaters, resistant huggers, and more serious physical and social obstacles. But children are more than their challenges. They are all innocent, sweet, little beings needing to feel unconditional love and stimulation. By focusing on the positive children become more than their disabilities. And as they grow we need to help them find their passions and welcome their differences.
Our role as parents is to guide our children through life with its joys and struggles while assuring our children of their safety and our love. And our job never ends. We need to continue to enrich our children and challenge them as we did when they were infants and toddlers. We need to continue to read to them, with them, discuss, ask questions, and build the important life skills of integrity, independence and compassion.
Mama Johnson raised Lyndon with foresight and compassion. She inspired me to look to the future while raising my children, and I share that same goal with you.
Best of luck.