22 Jan

IMG_5811I just went off, or HAM as the kids say (hard as a mother…) on my son. We were on our way to school at 7 am–never my finest hour–and I sat in the driveway and blew the horn to get him to get outta the house and into the car. I never blow my horn in my driveway and hardly ever do anywhere else. I think it’s rude and usually unnecessary, but I knew he was dawdling, looking in the mirror, looking for a certain hat, not one to keep him warm, but one to look cool. The one from Drake’s clothing line. I just lost it. He spends 25 minutes getting dressed and less than two making sure he has his work and knows what the school day requires of him. He almost left his math folder on the dining room table. There’s a quiz tomorrow. I reamed him out the entire way to school. He sat, sunken slightly in the passenger seat not saying a word as I talked, okay yelled, about his future and pointed out that there are some kids walking around town who were well-dressed and cool in high school and can’t get in or finish college or get a job. I’m still simmering an hour after I dropped him off.

My son Ford is a good boy. He’s sweet, has great friends, is a good baseball player, can play chess and is intuitive and funny.  He is cool and I mean that it both ways: he’s calm, like nothing bothers him and he’s got an understated way that reads Miles Davis kind of cool. Just is; just has always been.

I understand that much of this behavior is age-appropriate freshman year behavior and I believe (know, hope…) that he’ll mature and learn how to handle his business.

I had more  than a few of these rants directed at my daughter when she was in high school–not freshman year because the sadists who ran the all-girls Catholic school had oppressed her to the point of compliance. The uniform  requirement also saved lots of time that would’ve been spent on primping. After a few months, it became clear that that Catholic school was not the place for her, so she transfered to the school where my son is now. She and I had our battles (not much about school work), but she got kicked out at least one carpool because she couldn’t ever get out of the house on time, but we survived and she is thriving. I look at Baldwin’s level of grace and resiliance now, as she navigates her way in Paris during her junior year abroad and I’m bursting with pride. She takes all of her classes in French, she’s dealing with a difficult living situation and she got through the horrendous terrorist attacks, scared, but didn’t once say she wanted to leave the program and come home. A few students in her program did leave. Sure she wanted to be with us during that time, and God knows we  wanted  to wrap her up, but she kept a grip on herself and made it through.

Lots has been written lately about the importance of resilience and that it is the most important trait to have in future success. I came across this list:

Characteristics of a resilient child that cannot be influenced:
Normal intelligence
Attractiveness to others
Good Fortune
Knack for seeking out people in environment that are good for a child’s development

Things that can be fostered:

Strong relationship with a competent adult
Feelings of hope and meaning in life
Faith or religious affiliations
Good schools
Connection to Positive Role Models
Feelings of self-worth and self-efficacy
“Acceptance gives us the gift of resilience –fully joining the flow of life without being defined by what happens,” said Sharon Salzberg Cofounder of Insight Meditation Society Author of Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program.

Ford clearly is flowing and he has all the characteristics of resilience, perhaps that’s why when I’m spinning on my head, wondering what I should do to light his fire and make him take more responsiblity for school, he always says to me, relax.

Maybe the babies really are our teachers. Clearly, I need to practice acceptance, ahem, resislience.

I’d like to hear how you help or have helped your kids become more resilient. How have you?



8 Responses to “resilience”

  1. Tanya Carter January 24, 2016 at 3:32 am #

    Great Topic!
    Parent role model (seeing the parent go thru something where the parent handles the situation with grit, tenacity and grace) has a lot of value. Also constantly in their ear with the importance of resilience using examples from situations other than their own. The kids seem to hear better when the spot light is off of them.

  2. Hope Daley-Derry67 January 24, 2016 at 4:36 am #

    Your prompt is so timely. Recently, my son, who is a senior at a college prep school in Connecticut shared with me some painful exchanges and experiences he had encountered with some of his classmates. Over the past four years that he has been a student there. He has never really expressed to his father, older sister or me anything that seemed out of the ordinary. But in this particular text, there was an undertone that something had hit and hurt my beautiful, loving, happy, intelligent, Black son at his very core. I have always known that as a mother of a black boy that I would have to be hyper vigilant in watching, listening and correcting in order to ensure that his powerful light and energy was never dimmed or extinguished. We sent him off to school confidently knowing that we had shared with him enough of the knowledge he needed to triumph over the issues around race & privilege and instilling in him that what he brought to the table was just as great and even greater in most cases. On this particular evening, our usual nightly 10pm call could not come quickly enough, as I called his dorm number, I could not help but think “who’s neck am I going to have to strangle” after just one ring he answered and his cheerful “hey mamma” sounded the same but when I asked “what’s going on?” the sigh that followed was not. He went on to tell me that after reading a school wide email from one of the student run clubs on campus, he and another classmate sent an email to the club’s president voicing their concern about the tone, word usage and their overall level of discomfort with the negative depiction of Africa. He explained to me that the reply to the email they sent was polite and meant to be a teaching moment on what was wrong with the email so that it could be corrected. Unfortunately, that is not what happened. Instead the Club’s President, a white female student decided to go to the dean of students and complain. My son and his friend were asked to the Dean’s office. As they sat there being admonished for hurting this young (white) student’s feelings and telling them that they had frightened her because they are “big and scary seniors.”It was at that moment that my son said the lump in his throat hardened, he and his friend were hit with the cold realization that the Dean of Students (all students) doesn’t think their feelings matter. They left the office frustrated and feeling betrayed but the hours and days that followed up to MLK day were monumental. As the president of the Black and Latino students association, galvanizing all his like minded classmates, my son created a platform for an open and honest dialogue about race but more importantly from the perspective of the students of color on campus. There were a lot of tears but there was a new level of understanding and empathy. A search for a Dean of Inclusion and Diversity is now underway (go figure it’s 2016 and they do not have one) and also a pledge from the administration to recruit more faculty of color. After hearing from my son about all the micro and macro aggressions the students of color encountered, I saw his resilience shining ever so brightly. He could have never uttered a word, internalized it and let it fester. Instead and more importantly, he spoke up and out and used his voice for change. They also received a sincere, tearful apology from the Dean of Students!

    • Benilde Little January 24, 2016 at 5:23 am #

      Yes, he could’ve internalized what happened. I’m sure he has in the past and I hate that our kids so often do. I’m glad he has a group who could & did stand up & fight back; it does becomes exhausting, especially in those rarified environments which are often hostile, but very subtle, to have to fight back all time. It raises another question? Should we be putting our kids in these situations? Do the benefits–a prestigious degree–outweigh the negatives–daily assaults in one’s sense of self?

  3. Hope Derry January 24, 2016 at 8:42 pm #

    Hi, the question of “should we be putting our kids in these situations?” is a very valid one. I offer this. I think dealing with issues of race are an eventuality for all of us. I wonder though, if those children that are exposed to it earlier are better equipped later on to detect it and deal with it because it is not going away. For children of color, the benefits are much deeper than a “prestigious” degree. We have seen that President Obama’s “pretigious” degrees do not make a difference to his detractors. Our kids do not have to go away to prep schools in order for their humanity to be questioned, assaulted and marginalized. It happens on our streets, in the media, in schools both public & private, and it is in the very spirit and fabric of this country and beyond.

    • Benilde Little January 31, 2016 at 9:04 pm #

      Sorry Hope, it took me a minute to respond because both my kids got hit with some crap, at the same time…one directly related to race (it turned out). You’re right, they don’t have to be in rarified environments for their humanity to be assaulted–although the issue my daughter just went through did take place in one. I think what I meant by my question is are we sending them in these spaces because we have the expectation that their lives are going to be inherently better. What does better look like? Isn’t the emotional health that might be gained in a less hostile, more inclusive environment, be more important than the elite degree? Can both be achieved and if so what does that require? Not sure I understand what you mean by the “deeper” benefit of a degree from an elite college. Obviously these are complex, nuanced and important issues that each parent has to make for her/himself. This part of your comment: “I wonder though, if those children that are exposed to it earlier are better equipped later on to detect it and deal with it…” is something I’ve been turning over. I think children who have had time to be steeped in affirming environments before being “assaulted” fare better emotionally than those who have been “exposed” early in life to hostile environments; what I do know for sure is that being assaulted emotionally is traumatic and can cause real psychic damage, whether it is obvious, whether one acknowledges it, and that, to me, is the insidiousness of the racism in which we’ve been and continue to be victims.

  4. Gifty McGifty February 6, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

    I love this post. Another mother said to me not too long ago, that by not being harder/more Tiger Mom on my daughter, I was limiting her potential and her future — ouch. But I think like you so beautifully point here, parenting is a careful dance between what matters to a kid, what matters to the parent and what matters in the world outside our homes. Love your writing B. Such a gift!

    • Benilde Little October 25, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

      I’m just seeing your comment on my blog comments. Shame on me! I love this concept called Elephant Mom which is the opposite of Tiger Mom. I came upon in an article that was in The (12/3/2014 by Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar). It breaks it down. The fabulous research professor said Brene Brown said in a TED talk, “You can’t selectively numb those hard feelings,” referring to emotions like guilt, vulnerability, and shame. “We perfect, most dangerously, our children.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: