Leadership in Parenting: Letting Go, Supporting Others

Michael John Miller, at about 3!He was going to be wrestler—just like Dad.

It was 1992 when I called—yes, called—the Resilite mat company to order our own Miller family wrestling mat. I didn’t choose my Cornell colors of red and white, but I did get a big “M” stamped on it.

When it came, all 12’x12’ of it, Karen and I dragged it down to our Plymouth, MN basement—and the grappling began! Michael, our 4-year-old, would tear into me with all his might while Tara, age 7, would referee. I even gave her a whistle to blow.

Mike was going to be great!

It didn’t happen.

Oh, he’s great—but he never wrestled. Well, at age 10 he did go to one formal session after we moved to Denver, but later he complained that the “other boys were sweaty.” He never walked on a mat again.

Except in our dust-laden Colorado barn—where the Miller Mat has rested for 15 years. Now a reminder of what never was, we walk across it to feed the horse.


But that’s cool. I let go of all mat-based dreams years ago. Since then, I’ve asked a QBQ, one any parent-in-training can ask: “What can I do to help my child reach his goals?”

The only son of seven children, Michael has different God-given talents than I do. He can sing, play guitar, and tap dance. He acts, and has performed in musicals. He even got a college degree in musical theater. Not exactly my skill-set.

But we do have some things in common. He loves to be on stage. He’s funny. He’s charming.

He got those abilities from me. His humility, too.

Now at 26, he does a bunch of things, blending his talents to serve people. He services members at Summit Credit Union in Sun Prairie, WI. He’s in the church worship band. He’s fun “Uncle Scoob” to Joshua and Becca Boo—Kristin’s kids—who live a mile away. He started a video production company—Sun Prairie Films—so he can sell his creativity to the marketplace. I guess just like me—the selling part, that is.

And, like Dad, he’s found a terrific gal who loves him. Like many young couples, Casey Mae and Michael have had their ups and downs. Karen and I did, too, back in the ‘70s. We still do.

Mike and Casey know about our marital struggle. We’ve shown them marriage is not perfect. How can it be? A union of imperfect people can never be … perfect. But Mike and Casey know marriage is everlasting, a lifelong commitment—till one passes on.

That’s what they told family and friends on Saturday, March 9th 2013 from the Brighton (Colorado) High School drama stage, where they met in 2006. And on that stage, these two natural performers signed on for their most important roles ever: husband and wife. It was a great day!

Casey Mae and Michael
Casey Mae and Michael

A few miles south, though, the hay covered Miller Mat will be crying out, “Michael, come use me!” But that possibility is long gone. For the new Mr. and Mrs. Miller, there are new and exciting days ahead.

And now, Karen and I together will ask, “How can we help you both reach your goals?”

It’s still an outstanding question.


Who needs your support today to achieve their chosen goals, and how will you help them?

Share your thoughts below!


25 Responses

  1. John,
    I love this post! My desire has been to support my children in whatever their dream. I think it is so critical to foster our kids dreams at any age. Even when my son was around 4 and wanted to grow up to be a monkey in the zoo (the loudest one at that!), we dreamed the dream with him. Now that he is older, we still talk dreams, what it takes to achieve them, and keeping an open mind! If we place our own judgements and limited thinking on someone elses dreams (not realistic, that can’t be done….), we would never have reached the moon!

    Keep your posts coming – love reading about QBQ and how it is put into action.
    Jane K

  2. Letting go of outcomes and other people’s lives – such an important lesson to learn. Always appreciate your candor and ability to communicate a lesson through your life lessons, John.

  3. As my children graduated from high school I rejoiced while all the other mothers around me seemed to be despressed and crying. I never understood why a mother would be sorrowful at that point in their childs life. To me our children spend 12 years learning the basics and now when they accomplish it we should be celebrating and looking forward to the new adventure “they get to chose”. With all that said, I was devasted when our son (youngest of three children) came home, after graduating from college then working as a successful Electronics Technician for three years informed my husband and me he was quiting his job, moving home and going back to school to become a Game Warden/Park Ranger. WOW! The mom in me wanted to slap him crazy and make him change his pathway of thinking. Having no success at convincing him, I stopped myself and chose to listen to him and hear his dream. That is when I realized I was trying to guide his life because I failed at life when I was 21 and here he was throwing away success. As we sat down with him and “Heard” his compassion and desires we realized he has his whole life ahead of him so we stepped back and took on the role “Cheering him on.” If this is what he wants to do then by all means let him “Go for it.” He succeeded once, he will succeed again! ….Now our other two better not pull this stunt. 🙂

  4. John,
    Amazing how similar our stories are. I was a wrestler in High School and College, it is probably what keep me in school through some of those years. So when my first born came along, he was going to be my little wrestler! But, as it turned out, unlike your son, mine never would even wrestle with me on the living room floor! He didn’t like that, “no Dad I don’t want to” was his response. He was very athletic, raced BMX bikes, swam, played football, basketball, baseball and ran some track, but as your son, never had any desire to wrestle. All along the way I was his best cheerleader and advocate. But then came the real shocker, at the end of his 10th grade year he announced that he was no longer going to compete in sports, “they want to own you and it takes too much time, I want to focus on my school work”. What a shock for someone that was way more interested in extracurricular activities in school than studying. Now for the happy ending…he graduated 18th in a class of over 500 students and received an academic tuition waiver from Arizona State University and graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering. I could not be more proud and honored to be his father and have not been to see a wresting match in over 25 years ;-). Support them where they are and where there minds are and I don’t think that you will ever be disappointed.

  5. After raising 4 children, from the same genetic make-up, but with totally DIFFERENT talents and abilities, I can so appreciate this article. We were fortunate to have the good instincts to let our children develop according to their own desires, but I have seen the unfortunate results of families whose children were forced into a life they did not want. Thank you for publishing informative articles such as this.

  6. Hi John,
    Right now my wife and I are supporting my son as he takes a sabbatical from college to write a book. There are many talents amongst our family so his writing skills and passion for it do not surprise me. He told us it was his dream so we’re helping him try to achieve it. We wanted him to get his degree and become a teacher. By supporting him now, who knows, he may be the next big thing!

  7. loved reading this. I have 2 boys, 18 months apart who are now 10 1/2 and 12 and couldn’t be more different. the good thing is that they are competitive, but supportive of eachother. one seems to have been blessed/cursed with the gift that most things come easily to him. He is an amazing athlete, mostly soccer and gymnastics are his choices.. right now he’s a competitive gymnast; he’s smart (Gate student) and musically talented as well. the problem is…you have to help keep him from getting bored! I want him to excel at whatever he chooses, but he needs to keep focused. the other son is also into athletics: football and baseball are his faves, he is honor roll as well, he just hasn’t been as motivated. I am excited that he seems to be getting stronger, better and more confident in his sport of choice..football. however of course…as his mother, I am scared to death of him getting hurt! (the other one too where we already had a back scare!) My husband and I try to go to everything as work allows….we are encouraging college of course and explain how sports can help….any advice is welcomed!

  8. My only children are twin Yorkshire Terrier boys! I encourage them in whatever I want them to do, but even THEY have minds of their own!
    So I’ve worked very hard at being the strange, loving aunt that my sister, sister-in-law & brother-in-law’s kids always prayed for! They say that they prayed, as children, that we would never have or adopt kids, so I guess we’ve done OK.
    We have been blessed with a niece and multiple nephews who are smart, successful, and wonderfully endowed with personality! We have listened to, encouraged through, and supported in all of their successes (and a few failures).
    While I know that our commitment to these “kids” is much different than their parent’s commitment, we couldn’t be more proud! And, of course, we are very proud of our Yorkie twins, Angus and Aspen!! 🙂 🙂
    I really appreciate you, your writing(s), and your sharing of personal life situations that help others (myself included) to evaluate and modify (or not) our own.
    God bless you with more OUTSTANDING publications!!

  9. What I learned as a parent: all one can do as a parent is to be the best parent they can be – love, listen & appreciate others for who they are – not what you what you want them to be. It’ll come with joy & tears but, in the end, it’s about them, not you : )

  10. John,
    I always enjoy reading your QuickNotes, and this is no exception.
    My son was just over a year old when the 2004 Olympics took place. I remember watching Michael Phelps and the amazing job he did and thinking, ‘my son is going to be a swimmer!’
    Fast forward 2 years later and my beautiful boy was diagnosed with autism. So many goals and dreams that I had for my boy died when I heard that word.
    I have since learned that God has even greater plans for Mitchell, greater than I could ever imagine. I am a runner and Mitchell completed his first 5k with me a year ago. He touched so many lives that day when he refused to quit and even though we came in last, we won in so many ways!!
    I now help my son to achieve the goals that God put him here to accomplish. There is no better feeling in the world!
    Thank you for the reminder and have a blessed day!

    1. Elizabeth, so sorry for my delay. This is a very touching note. You sound like the perfect mom for Mitchell. He couldn’t have been born into a better home! Blessings.

  11. What a great reminder that the best parents are those who support (and celebrate) their children for being exactly who they are! Mine couldn’t be more different from one another and I am lucky to have these 2 wonderful, unique daughters!

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