Take a look at your baby; boy or a girl, toddler or preteen. Take a look again, because you are looking at a very unique gift! No other individual is like him or her. No other eyes or nose, no matter how similar, is exactly the same as your baby’s. His laughter and frown; his gait and posture are all so uniquely his that none other can parallel it. But it doesn’t end there; it’s the same with his traits and habits, likes and dislikes.
But have you ever wondered why this is so? Is it just so that we can easily tell him apart from another baby? I think not!
Rather, I favor the answer that it is because his path in life is very unique, very his. He doesn’t need someone else’s eyes because he was not designed to see things the way others do. He has no need for another’s laughter, because he wasn’t meant to use his to bring joy to everyone, but only to his own. But I find something amiss in all this beautiful design, not from nature but from our society. It stems from the fact that even before we begin to appreciate the uniqueness of our babies, we ship them off to the assembly lines called schools. And in the schools, where generic employable graduates are being mass-produced, the uniqueness of our babies is lost somewhere underneath the uniform they wear. Maybe wearing a school uniform, in fact inadvertently symbolizes the way schools replace our baby’s uniqueness for societal uniformity.
Don’t get me wrong. By all means, send your baby to school, give him an education. Classroom education increases your child’s chances of future productivity, civic participation, healthy lifestyle, life-expectancy and earning power while diminishing his proclivity to crime. But, when he comes back from school, please do your part to help him retain his uniqueness. Don’t let him forget how special he is and how another him will never be. Even though the school is helping to make him employable, endeavor to provide him with the tools that will enhance his uniqueness or it may be blurred from his memory and consciousness forever.
What I am advocating for in this piece should begin at infancy. Parents should look for the unique marketable package (UMP) that God has put into their baby; help him develop it, so that he can deploy it (as a career/business venture) along with his school education when he is old enough to become productive. Discovering and developing their UMP has often been a product of painful years of soul-searching for most people. But it needn’t be so, if parents had been actively involved in doing so with them from childhood.
How to discover your baby’s UMP
Let’s examine this with a few examples:
When your baby is playing in the nursery, when he is talking to fellow toddlers or when he is rummaging through your bedroom and you are screaming that he should drop that vase, endeavor to look out for clues as to what his unique package is. Items or activities that your baby is often drawn to are pointers you shouldn’t miss. And I don’t mean the ice-cream in the fridge or the water tub in your backyard. A child who is enamored by beads or works made from them, not only once but every time, not only at home but even on social outings, not just when he is three years old but when he is four and five and on and on is communicating something to the parents. When you find that you always have to ask your daughter to stop playing with the knitting needles but three months on, one year on, you are still shouting the same instruction and she is now hiding it in her room to play with when you are out of sight; take note. When your son drums on every surface he finds, including the head of his younger sister and you beat him, but he still continues drumming anyway that you sneakingly catch him drumming in class when last you went to his school; take note.
Another pointer is the sights, smells and sounds that always catch your baby’s attention. What does he watch on the TV, in magazines or as you are driving round town. If your baby always remarks about a bill board on his way to school, listen to what he is saying or what is on the sign. If your daughter does not watch any other channel on cable but the Food Channel and each time she sees you cooking, she comes around to watch and ask those ‘one-million-answerless’ questions about cooking; take note. If car mags, car racing games and the Grand Prix are recurring themes of your child’s habits; take note.
Finally, watch what your baby always reads without being prodded to. The particular class subjects he loves to read or the kind of books he picks from the shelves in your study, irrespective of whether he is bored or happy, he’s on vacation or school is in session, he is hungry or full are other pointers you don’t want to miss.
Honestly, it sounds like hard work but what about parenting is easy?! However, if you train yourself to recognize patterns it will become easier and it will help if you can enter your observations in a journal. In fact as soon as you have a baby, open a Unique Qualities diary for it. Regularly enter habits and traits that you find bearing resemblance to the points listed above and hand it over to your baby in addition to the other gifts at his/her 18th birthday. I wish my parents kept one for me, but my mum’s memory bank has worked wonders for me still. Thank God she’s still alive for me to help myself to the things she so vividly remembers.
Steps to growing your baby’s UMP
If discovering your baby’s UMP is hard work, its development is drudgery, until you start reaping the dividends! It’s like the case of weeds and edible plants; you don’t have to do a thing for a vice to grow worse, but developing a virtue requires time and effort. A baby’s UMP is a virtue but it has to be cultivated. The essence of developing the UMP is because no one will pay your daughter for watching Food Channel or your son for drumming on everyone’s head. But if you help her to find her comfortable expression for food/cooking you are on the way to unveiling her uniqueness to the world.
The next step after discovery is to expose your baby to his domain or the world of his UMP. This is due to the fact that there are a million and one ways to express ones UMP. Take for instance, a child who stares at paintings, reads about them and tries to collect them might not be able to paint, but if her parents expose her to the world of her UMP which in this case is the art world, she might be set on the path to becoming the world’s most renowned curator. That is her most comfortable expression of the UMP, which is totally different from some other child who stares at paintings but goes on to sketch with pencils and begins to use the painting brush she is exposed to in the art world. While the first child is set to be the next Hyatt Mayor, the latter might be a Picasso in the making!
Summer camps, school clubs and societies and other extra-curricular activities that our children attend are wonderful places to get exposed because they find various ways to express their UMP.
No matter how talented we think Pele, the footballer is, if he wasn’t born in a country where football was appreciated or if his parents never allowed him to play the game, the lack of exposure would have probably robbed the world of one of the best footballers to have walked this Earth. Malcolm Gladwell makes an exhaustive case for exposure in his book Outliers (Read pages 50-54)
Exposure is a delicate dance between pushing the child in the direction of his natural inclination and reining him in from the distractions abundant in his UMP world. Caution and prudence dictate that we don’t foist on him what his most comfortable expression should be, even if we feel that one expression is more lucrative than the other. Also be patient to let him try his hands at various expressions; just think of how easy it was for you to find your unique marketable package (hopefully, you have) and extend something of the same understanding to your baby.
After finding your baby’s UMP expression, get him the tools and training to hone his skills. And ensure that you make it all fun; remember how fulfilling learning is when there is hope of a reward!
Thank goodness, you have discovered your baby’s UMP! It is music and her most comfortable expression for it is singing. She has also trained for years and featured in several music shows to develop her UMP. Your friends even say that you have done wonders and your baby can sing that Toni Braxton has got nothing on her! But you and I know that if she releases an album today, her best sales will pale beside Braxton’s most dismal sales figure. Why? Talent is not the most important ingredient for career success; business savvy is more like it. Talent is what you need to win competitions and shows but when it comes to careers and business ventures you need what we call business intelligence.
Developing your baby’s UMP without giving him business intelligence is like providing him with the ability to fish in an area without ponds; business intelligence is what helps him to build ponds and hire those who will fish. I suggest obtaining this intelligence by gaining experience on the business side from someone in her UMP world.