Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Take me seriously!

One of our daughters was very upset this evening and complained that no one ever takes her seriously. While that generalization is untrue, I have to confess that my husband Jeff and I have certainly broken a cardinal rule of parenting on more than one occasion - the one dictating that you should never laugh in the face of your child's turmoil (at least not in front of your child's face). On the one hand, it's easy and important to remember that whatever your child is going through is monumental and maybe even earth-shattering to them at the moment. Empathy and sympathy are key. On the other hand, what's wrong with a little perspective? My kids hate to be called self-centered but being self-centered (to an extent) is one of the perks of childhood. As kids get older, self-centeredness is not tolerated so you have to guide them out of it at some point. Maybe laughing at their perceived disaster or pain isn't the best way and I realize this will come across as cruel and uncaring (which couldn't be further from the truth), but sometimes you just have to laugh. In our family's experience, laughter, due to its contagious nature, will spread to all parties and humor really is the cure close to 75% of the time. The rest of the time, as you would expect, laughter just makes things worse. In those cases, we start by apologizing for the laughter and then dig a little to find the real cause of concern, which, after digging, almost always turns out to be something quite different from the predicament expressed at the outset that made us laugh in the first place. Never a dull moment!

Parents struggle to find the appropriate reaction to childhood calamity. It's not easy to walk a finely balanced line. I think it's okay to fall over to one side or another (between validating the plight and infusing perspective) every now and then as long as we are always listening seriously and actively. I, for one, want my children to know that they can overcome challenges now and in the future. I want them to feel successful at dealing with childhood disappointment so they feel equipped to handle the challenges of adulthood.

Some of the best books ever written are books where the author takes the reader through a real life catastrophe and both emerge stronger and braver and a little more satisfied at the other end. If you've been following this blog for a while then you know that I enjoy pairing up adult and children's books. Today's book recommendations are of that nature though the connection is not readily apparent. At the children's end comes the strongest plea that you encourage your kids (middle school and teen) to read Raina Telgemeier's Smile. At the adult end is Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken. It is conceivable that two more different books could not be paired together but, at the same time, each book features a protagonist who endures unimaginable hardship given their state in life and state of mind. Each is a story of unimaginable horror, resilience and survival.

No comments:

Post a Comment