QUESTION: My two kids are as different as night and day. You'd never even know they were born to the same parents. One of them is having trouble in school and the other is something of a superstar. I'm very worried about the one boy. Do some kids start out doing poorly and then catch fire?
DOBSON: Thank goodness they often do. Let me give you an encouraging illustration. Several years ago I attended a wedding ceremony in a beautiful garden setting, and I came away with some thoughts about parents who are raising a child like your boy.
After the minister had instructed the groom to kiss the bride on that day, approximately 150 colorful, helium-filled balloons were released into the blue California sky. Within a few seconds the balloons were just scattered all across the heavens, some of them rising hundreds of feet overhead and others cruising toward the horizon. A few balloons struggled to clear the upper branches of the trees, while the show-offs became mere pinpoints of color on their journey to the sky.
How interesting, I thought, and how symbolic of children. Let's face it. Some boys and girls seem to be born with more helium than others. They catch all the right breezes and they soar effortlessly to the heights, while others wobble dangerously close to the trees. Their frantic folks run along underneath, huffing and puffing to keep them airborne. It is an exhausting experience.
In short, I have a word of encouragement to you and all the parents of low-flying kids. Sometimes the child who has the greatest trouble getting off the ground eventually soars to the highest heights. That's why I urge you as parents not to look too quickly for the person your child will become.
QUESTION: Do you believe love at first sight occurs between some people?
DOBSON: Though some readers will disagree with me, ''love at first sight'' is a physical and emotional impossibility. Why? Because love is much more than a romantic feeling. It is more than sexual attraction, or the thrill of the chase, or the desire to marry someone. These are responses that can occur ''at first sight,'' and they might even lead to the genuine thing in time. But those feelings are usually temporary, and they do not mean the person who experiences them is ''in love.'' I wish everyone understood that fact!
The primary difference between infatuation and real love is where the emphasis lies. Temporary romantic attractions tend to be very selfish in nature. A person may say, ''I can't believe what is happening to me. This is the most fantastic thing I've ever experienced! I must be in love.'' Notice that she's not talking about the other person. She's excited about her own gratification. Such an individual hasn't fallen in love with someone else; she has fallen in love with love!
Genuine love, by contrast, is an expression of the deepest appreciation for another human being. It is an intense awareness of his or her needs, strengths and character. It shares the longings, hopes and dreams of that other person. It is unselfish, giving and caring. And believe me, these are not attitudes one ''falls'' into at first sight, as though he were tumbling into a ditch.
I have developed a lifelong love for my wife, but it was not something I fell into. I grew into it, and that process took time. I had to know her before I could appreciate the depth and stability of her character -- to become acquainted with the nuances of her personality, which I now cherish. The familiarity from which love has blossomed simply could not be generated on ''some enchanted evening, across a crowded room.'' One cannot love an unknown object, regardless of how attractive or sexy or nubile it is!
(James Dobson is president of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80903; or www.family.org. Questions and answers are excerpted from ''Solid Answers,'' published by Tyndale House.)
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