As I was doing my yard work this morning, one of the things that makes me happy, my mind was free to wonder and contemplate. As I was wrapping up with blowing off the sidewalks, thinking about my own children, my thoughts arrived at a profound awareness of my children growing into young adults. I feel helpless.
I took a walk down memory lane of a time when my kids were babies and toddlers. I was so important to them. They listened and actually believed me (most of the time) when I warned them of dangers. They listened to me and learned from me. As they would venture out into the backyard, I was there. I watched them take a step and stumble to the ground, and I could help them. I caught them or picked them up tending to boo boos, doctoring their feelings by hugging them until they were happy or sticking a Band-Aid on a skinned knee. Even as they ventured further when they grew a little older, I could help! I was always there with them. IT was so SIMPLE when they were young children. I tried to teach them to become independent and make good choices. Helping them understand compassion and right from wrong. I encouraged and nurtured them on their journey as they grew into adults.
As they transformed into teens, it got a little more complicated. They were no longer in the backyard. They took their journey into the forest, and they started becoming independent, which is what I wanted right? It was so scary. The realization of the impact of their mistakes could have pretty severe consequences was real.. Like any good parent, I tried to help. I tried to keep them on the path I wanted them to take.
Now my children are legal adults. My daughter is 23, and my son is 20. They are both great kids, but they also have so much growing up ahead. Not only does this feel like being in the middle of the wilderness, it is like six days off the beaten path with no civilization within hundreds of miles. It is very tricky supporting them now. They tell me, "I'm an adult now!" My brain takes me back to that 1986 hit, "I'm an Adult Now," from The Pursuit of Happiness.
Sending your son off to college is scary. When he chooses not not attend classes the first semester , it was an easy decision to make him come home and grow up a little more, but watching him struggle to find himself and what he wants out of life is not so easy. My daughter is renting that first nice town home, but I worry about her biting off more than she can handle financially and about her safety! This is not easy - not for this helicopter mom. It is difficult to sit back and allow each of them to continue on their hike through life without a guide. I am there to support and try to guide them, , but they just are not always willing to follow my guidance or heed to cautions or paths I propose.
The thought of my children not always listening to my reasonable advice makes me think about my experience at Harvard last month. One of the presenters, Samuel Betances, said something that made a lasting impression on me. It is not that I didn't realize it before, but I think how he said it is what really stuck with me. "You can't teach a student unless they give you permission to teach him/her." That is so true with my kids. I have to have their permission to give advice before they will actually take it and use it. It is so real with students in the classroom. Wanting to help my children avoid the mistakes or paths we have already tread upon that may have caused great grief and struggle is what parents desire to do. The thing we often forget is that we learn from our mistakes. I know learn through mine, and I need to allow my kids to learn from theirs. I need to give them permission to take their own path, which may be one less traveled or less desirable. I will still be the guide that shouts, "Over here, "This Way!" or "Watch Out!" My only hope is that the mistakes they learn from will not cost them too much or take them down too treacherous a path falling off a cliff that they can't climb up.
This is something I hope to help parents to understand at school. Allow your children to learn from their mistakes. The mistakes they make now in elementary school for the most part have minimal consequences. Not completing projects and homework and suffering the consequences of their actions will hopefully help them to become more organized and responsible. Feeling disappointment for not making a team or earning merits when they have not shown enough effort has natural consequences. Allowing students to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them in the classroom is valuable as well. Teachers need to not rush to just give answers to kids for the sake of time, but guide them into solving problems on their own which will have everlasting effects on their ability to be ready for the future.
As a parent, I have fallen into the pitfalls that so many parents get trapped in as well. I sometimes tried to help and "fix" it. Every parent wants their child to get that A or make that team. When our child does not use their time wisely, we just really help them get the project complete. We end of THINKING for them. This train of thought counteracts with the end goal of helping them become independent adults. When we allow kids to learn and grow with guidance, help to show them the dangers ahead, they will learn and grow into adults that are expertly trained to be a guide for themselves and will have the ability to lead others out of the wilderness!
These thoughts are entangled with our theme at Curtis Elementary this year. We take intelligent risks, to help our students to be future ready and to thrive in the world. We take the road less traveled at times; not because it is a shortcut or easy. Often times it is extremely difficult. We choose that path because it is what is best for kids! As an educator and principal of Curtis Elementary, I want to lead my staff, students, and parents to remembering that is alright to take risks in learning. It will not always be easy, but well worth the reward. My closing thoughts are in the poem, "Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. Let's take the road less traveled - it could make all the difference!
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost: http://www.bartleby.com/119/1.html