I went to a wonderful parenting lecture last week at my daughter's school. (Special thank you to the awesome group of PTO moms for organizing). The topic was "How to Raise Resilient Children" presented by Dr. Robert Brooks. Now, I am not a parenting book/parenting lecture kind of mom. I probably should be. But after spending all day with my children, the last thing I want to do after they go to bed is read about children. Just being honest.
But this topic called to me as I think it does to many parents whose children are moving from the sheltered toddler years where we can do things like listen to NPR in the car or breast feed in front of the national news, to the elementary school years where I don't even dare turn on the tv to catch the weather for fear of what my kids will hear. But of course, we can't protect our kids from everything. Life happens. You know what happens. And as a parent I want to raise children who have the skills to cope. Plus, the school is a block away from my house. And my husband miraculously made it home in time for me to attend. So I went.
Given that the topic was resiliency, I was expecting Dr. Brooks to lecture on things like letting our children fight their own battles and grounding the helicopter tendencies that reside in all of us to some degree. But he didn't really get into that. What he did get into, was the idea that in order for children to overcome challenges and grow up into resilient adults, they need a charismatic adult in their lives. Never fear, according to Dr. Brooks being a charismatic adult does not mean whipping out the jazz hands while stirring the mac n' cheese, it means being a person from whom the child gathers strength. It means asking yourself as you kiss your child goodnight, What did I do today to make my child feel stronger?
Dr. Brooks said a lot more than that (and I also missed a lot of what he said because I spent a great deal of the lecture alternating between laughing at his stories and crying over them, he was a wonderful speaker), but I just loved the simplicity of this point. So much of parenting involves reigning kids in and setting limits. So much of it involves saying no. And Dr. Brooks made it clear that discipline and boundary setting are very important. But it was also nice to hear someone talk about one of the most wonderful things about being a parent, which is watching our kids become who they are and letting them know how amazing we think that little person is. It was a good reminder.
By the way, this charismatic adult figure does not have to be a parent or a relative. They just need to be there at the right time, for the right child. It's funny, but during this lecture I couldn't help but think that Coco and Lucy act as a charismatic adult figures in Star Sisters. They come in when a child needs them most and provide a source of strength. I hope Dr. Brooks would approve.