Some kiddos can be tough nuts to crack. They put their armor up and it’s like Fort Knox. When we have opened ourselves up or taken a risk and gotten hurt, the walls instinctively shoot up fending off other potential predators. Unfortunately, this has been the experience for many children with whom we work. Luckily, we all let our guard down for brief periods, and that is when individual moments can build relationships.

So, Marc Daniel turned 20 this week. He’s my quiet third born. He has always reminded me of my father in some ways – introverted, bright, very guarded, avoiding conflict at all costs. He just sits back and take it all in, but lets little out – so you never quite know what he’s thinking. I’ve had fun this year spending a good deal of individual time with him, and I wouldn’t trade those moments for all the gumbo in South Louisiana. [It’s Mardi Gras week – thus, the timing of my home state food reference.]

Thanks to a large crew of counselors from Huntsville, Alabama, Marc received about 80 random birthday texts spread throughout his special day. My favorite part? The one text I received from him: “You are a cruel human being.” Yep. That moment will stick with me for quite some time to come. My hope is that the opposite is true, as well.

Look for the moments. Look for the opportunities when their guard is down to have an interaction that builds the relationship. One interaction can remain in the memory of a child for a lifetime. It’s often a timing game. All children want to let us in; we just have to look for the opportunity and seize the moment. Happy birthday, Boy Wonder.