I have five free hours I didn’t realize I would have.
I blocked off all of my slots of clients to attend my eldest son’s first debate tournament. I couldn’t wait to see him in action!
Ian was fuzzy with me about when the competition at Valley Center High School officially started, so I arrived 30 minutes after he had just gone in for his first round. I had packed tons of work for the seven to eight hours I planned to be there.
I imagined a debate competition was like a swim or track meet. You know, where you sit for four to eight hours to, if you are lucky, get to see you kids compete in a four-minute event.
When I arrived in the sparsely filled commons area, I approached the adult organizer for the event. I learned he used to be the debate coach at my son’s school the previous year. He gave me the rundown.
There are actually four rounds, lasting about an hour and a half each with 30-minute breaks between. The event could easily last until 10 PM, which made me glad I walked my Lab before I arrived around 4 that afternoon.
I had no idea debate was that intense!
There is only the two-person team for each team and a debate coach in the session. If I would like to watch, I would have to first ask my son and his partner if he was okay with it and then ask the permission of the opponents.
The organizer explained that the kids could be nervous. Requesting permission to attend is important because you don’t want your presence to be blamed for the poor performance of either debater. If I didn’t get the permission, he suggested I just park myself outside of the door and listen from there. After each round, the competing students would be given their room assignments for the next round.
He explained that in about 15 minutes there would be a rush of kids, my son among them, entering the commons area after they complete their first round. I could connect with my son then.
I distracted myself answering emails on my phone until I saw my son and his debate partner coming from down the hall. I was giddy about the thought of getting to see him in his next round.
Ian looked intense and focused. He and his partner, a boy he has known from Scouts for years, both felt cautiously optimistic about their performance. Then I asked Ian if he minded if I sit in on the next session.
He said “no.”
I asked him why. I knew that Ian was self-conscious because he was a first-year debater as a junior. After some probing, he said it would make him feel nervous, and no other parents were there.
I get that.
Then I asked if he minded me being outside the door.
He said “no.” He did tell me I could attend his next debate when his school hosted a few weekends away.
So that’s how I ended up with the free five hours.
As I drove back from the outskirts of the small town where the new high school had been built, I bathed in the beauty of Kansas plains, while experiencing deep joy.
You see, Ian is bilaterally, profoundly deaf. He wears cochlear implants and has been mainstreamed since pre-school.
You would never know he was deaf with how he communicates; the Eagle Scout badge he is very close to achieving; the great true friendships he has made and maintained; and the grades he has been able to achieve, not without a struggle, in a very competitive Catholic school system.
But the journey has been a rocky one.
Being able to walk and talk like everyone else doesn’t mean you are like everyone else.
Ian has been with a foot mostly in the hearing world, but with the other foot in the muck of real challenges of a cochlear-implanted deaf person.
Things haven’t always been smooth, from missing out on social cues because he couldn’t hear all of the conversations, having rare and random incidents of being made fun of that fueled his cautious personality, having additional physical struggles with the balance issues that accompany hearing loss and his treacherous birth experience, and having interior doubts that he would make it as an adult with his disability.
That fear or belief that he didn’t have what it takes to function at times fueled self-sabotage.
Around 5th grade, despite getting feedback from the teachers that Ian was one of the brightest kids in his class, I was floored when Ian asked me if he thought he would be able to get a job as an adult and be able to support himself.
His deaf itinerant teacher (Jeri) was the one to first spot his genius in his sophomore year. Regularly she observed Ian in the classroom to assist him in learning to self-advocate and help the teachers best accommodate his special needs.
Ian preferred to keep a low profile, not drawing attention to himself. He was mostly unengaged in his classes.
So when Jeri stepped in Ian’s public speaking class she reported seeing a young man she had never met. He was confident, articulate, and had a comfortable command of the audience when giving his speech to his peers.
At the next IEP (Individual Education Plan) Jeri recommended to Ian and us that he enroll in debate for the fall.
Helping Ian map out college plans with some interest testing, like my psychologist father had done for me previously, validated her observations: Ian was a leader, an analyzer, and thinker. He was well-suited and had an interest in following his father’s footsteps to become a lawyer.
A debate was the perfect arena to begin nurturing his gifts.
I am a firm believer both for kids in school as well as entrepreneurs in their businesses of the importance of identifying and understand what they are uniquely gifted at doing and being. When the magic happens and you discover and live your genius, the clients, money, joy, great life, and personal satisfaction, and effective fulfillment of your unique God-given mission all fall into place.
So my road trip to Valley Center High School was not wasted. First, I know Ian felt the love and support from me making time to be there for him, as well as appreciating me for respecting his request that I not stay.
But, most importantly I saw in the emerging confidence and gleam of his eye. After all of the struggles, Ian had uncovered the hidden gem of his unique talent. Ian just stepped into the magic of discovering and living his genius right before my eyes. I knew in my heart that it would be much smoother sailing from here.
Christian Entrepreneurs on Fire Biz and Life Tip: If things haven’t started coming together for you in your life and biz yet, persevere and dig deep to discover your genius because finding it and developing it is the key to everything falling into place.
Copyright 2017 Christina Weber