What are my Roles?

As we consider again (and again, and again) the perpetual invitation to examine the ways in which we bring a sense of intention and purposefulness to being a parent, it is essential that we look at the parts we play in our children’s lives.

In my College Parent 101 presentation, I pose the following question to parents: “What roles do you hold with your daughter or son?”  Another way to view this might be: “What roles define your relationship?”  An additional way to consider this might be to ask, “How do the roles I have keep me attached to my daughter or son in particular ways?”  In my own experience as both parent and university faculty/administrator, I know that much of the struggle we experience, and/or our children experience with us, is around the ways we define our relationships.

If you would, take a moment to identify the Roles you hold with your new or rising college student.  Go ahead; grab a note pad and pen, and make a list.  What comes to mind?  Responses such as: teacher, mentor, coach, and friend come to mind quickly.  But, there are also a host of practical life-based roles we have assumed out of the necessity and demand of daily life, such as: taxi driver, scheduler, nurse, party planner, ATM machine, and the like.  We are often not fully aware of how we “live out” of these roles – sometimes multiple times a day – and how they define our relationships because we equate them with “being a parent.”

Now that I have identified a few more, return to your note pad and make a list of what you find to be true for yourself.  Whether you do it now, or later, please take a few minutes to do it for yourself and for your student.  These roles are often the very things that we hold on to without realizing it, which can ultimately lead to us staying stuck while needing to transition to a new kind of relationship – one with new roles; new ways of being in relationship.

It is vital for our success as parents, and for the success of our student’s self-competency and resiliency, that we be aware of the connections we have with each other and how either, or both of us may be holding on to them.  If we don’t acknowledge these; that is, recognize if and/or why they need to end or change, we will hold on to them longer than is necessary.  They then serve as stakes in the ground of our relationship, preventing us from moving forward to a mature and healthy new place.

The metaphor that I believe speaks well to this is: Our job as a parent is never over, but our job description is always changing.  In what ways may you be regularly looking – with intention – at your “job description”; releasing your hold on roles that you may need to let go of, or at least reconsider attaching to in a new way?  This is the good, hard work of relationship!

 

Letting Go & Holding On

I have been presenting my College Parent 101 session a lot in the last few weeks as this is the season for New Student & Parent Orientation sessions at universities across the country.  As I walked across campus the other day I thought, “Hmm, if we could harness the energy surrounding all the feelings both students and parents are experiencing right now, we could light up several small cities.”  There is a LOT of emotional energy being expressed about what lies ahead.

I watched the movie Toy Story 3 again recently, reminded that the premise of the story is that Andy, the “human” character in the series, is preparing to leave for college and is asked by his mother to pack what he needs and box-up or give away what he no longer wants.  It is a great depiction of the process every student is going through about now; what will I let go of and what will I hold on to – both literally and figuratively? (if you haven’t seen TS3, or haven’t seen it in a while, I think its well-worth watching with this transition in mind – I might even classify this as an “Assignment” on the College Parent 101 syllabus!)

So much of our identity gets wrapped up in what we have, who we know, and the places that hold memories.  So, when those change or we have to move on, what happens to our identity?  I sense that it is times like this; times when we are called on to evaluate what has meaning, that we bump into what we are attached to, and, at least at some level, must assess whether we will remain attached to the person, the thing, the idea, or agenda we believe helps maintain or perpetuate our identity.

I’m convinced that if we do not recognize our attachments, we will act/speak/think out of a potentially unhealthy sense of “holding on” to that attachment.  This is one of the very things that keep us living in the past, or not letting go of a particular way of seeing ourselves &/or others.  I often ask parents to consider what they feel when I say the words, “Letting Go…  What do you become aware of?  What do you feel?”  I believe it is essential that we recognize what and how we feel about the changes set in motion by this transition, and then appropriately grieve the change (loss) of how it was, and no longer will be, or we will continue to hold on, which holds us back.

Another way to approach this is to identify the ROLES (see p.s. below) we have had with our daughter/son: mentor, guide, nurse, teacher, taxi, ATM, alarm clock, and the list goes on...  Many of these will change dramatically; some will disappear entirely.  If we don’t identify these and also grieve the loss of them, we may continue to try to keep the role alive in one way or another; holding our daughter/son and ourselves back from healthy growth and understanding.

Just as Andy in Toy Story 3 has to make a decision about his cherished boyhood toys and the memories associated with them, so do each of us need to make a decision about how we recognize the inevitable (and necessary) changes that come as we transition our relationship to a new place of growth.

Peace, Dane

p.s. If you would like to explore this more deeply, begin to make a list of the Roles that you embody in relationship to your daughter/son.  List them, then begin to wonder about (pray about) the ways in which these roles are and will change as your child goes away to college.  The more aware you are of how you have lived out of these roles and how each leads you to act or respond toward your child, the more aware you can become of the work YOU need to do to let go of the attachments that are embedded in the roles.

 

Scared to Fail!

In the course of writing the entries for CP101, the most “re-posted” or shared piece I have ever done here was on the topic of failure: Learning to Fail.  I sense that underneath much of our fear for the choices and decisions our daughters and sons make is that the decision will lead to failure.

When it comes down to it, its not really the failure we’re afraid of, but what comes after that: the fear of the unknown, we commonly call it.  The irony of it is, we can’t be afraid of what we don’t know!  So here is a great article addressing the fears as much as the failure and how we get tripped up around both.

Enjoy!

http://www.fastcodesign.com/3027404/scared-of-failing-ask-yourself-these-6-fear-killing-questions?partner=newsletter

.

Meaning changes as life unfolds…

I read the following posting recently by one of my favorite authors and poets, Parker Palmer.  Parker is a Quaker and so brings a unique and settled perspective to any conversation.  I’m grateful for his insights here and his challenge to see what is present with and for us as our lives unfold.  It’s certainly a relevant and viable topic for our on-going CP101 conversation.  I’ll be curious to hear from you about how this resonates in your own story.

by Parker J. Palmer,  weekly columnist On Being

I ran across this poem the other day, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It’s a poem about how we relate to the past — a question that’s relevant at any age, not least when you’re old enough to have more past than future!

Thanks, Robert Frost
by David Ray

Do you have hope for the future?
someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
that it will turn out to have been all right
for what it was
, something we can accept,
mistakes made by the selves we had to be,
not able to be, perhaps, what we wished,
or what looking back half the time it seems
we could so easily have been, or ought…
The future, yes, and even for the past,
that it will become something we can bear.
And I too, and my children, so I hope,
will recall as not too heavy the tug
of those albatrosses I sadly placed
upon their tender necks. Hope for the past,
yes, old Frost, your words provide that courage
,
and it brings strange peace that itself passes
into past, easier to bear because
you said it, rather casually, as snow
went on falling in Vermont years ago.

The past isn’t fixed and frozen in place. Instead, its meaning changes as life unfolds. I once lost a job. At the time, it felt as if I had come to the end of the road. But after a while, I was able to see how that loss helped guide me toward my true life-work. Losing that job was a blessing, not a curse.

I’ve made many mistakes and often failed to live up to my aspirations, but I don’t need to look back with regret. Instead, I can see all of my mess-ups as humus or compost for the growing I needed to do.

I love the fact that the word “humus” is related to “humility.” The good I do today may well have its roots in something not-so-good I did in the past. Knowing that takes me beyond both the sinkhole of regret and the hot-air balloon of pride.

Regret shuts life down. Humility opens it up. So Robert Frost was right. We can have hope for the past as well as the future!

.

Hovering…

The term “helicopter parents” has become so familiar in our culture that it is now commonplace.  Visual imagery brings to mind the overly protective, hovering parent or parents who, with (they would certainly say) all the best intentions, go beyond historic norms of their parental role to make sure that their child has the optimum life experience.

This is a growing dynamic for university administrators and faculty as the hovering has, in recent years, become not only more evident, but more aggressive.  I read recently of the newest version of the phenomenon: “Apache helicopter parents,” describing the growing aggressiveness of many parents to make the reality THEY want come true.

I suspect many of you would be startled by some of the Continue reading “Hovering…”

Seasonal shifts —

With the arrival of both cold weather and/or the passing of the holiday season’s activities, we all have some reaction to the changing seasons.  Whether it is dark when we wake or dark when we leave school or work, the shift in seasons brings any number of reactions.

For some, the shift can also be associated with other issues.  I’d like to thank Dr. Jesse Viner from the Yellowbrick Treatment Center for the chart you’ll find below explaining one of the more recent phenomena in the world of mental health issues. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression associated with late autumn and winter and thought to be caused by Continue reading “Seasonal shifts —”

How to Raise an Adult

A cadre of new publications is coming to market based on growing research evidence of the long-term effects of what we’ve come to know as “helicopter parenting”.  There has been anecdotal evidence for some time; be it comments from teachers or the railing of cultural commentators, that this “hovering” style of parenting teaches kids reliance that minimizes resiliency, or an inability to trust decision-making abilities.

The piece below is an excerpt from a new text which gleans some of the current statistics from academic institutions themselves as to the day-to-day effects of this dynamic.  I have been talking about this from one angle for a number of years: my own experience as both an administrator and faculty member in the ways I see this present in the lives of those students I interact with daily.  It is another thing, and at another level, to recognize the gravity of what this is doing to and in our rising generation of leaders, AND, I sense the weight of responsibility we (parents) bear for the context we have created.

So, I leave you with this piece; to wrestle with the issue on a large scale, and to engage with your individual contribution (as I’m doing) in the life of your daughter or son. Continue reading “How to Raise an Adult”

Overparenting…

A friend sent this article recently, knowing that I am waist-deep in this conversation, especially this time of year; mid-summer in the heart of New Student & Parent Orientation season.

I’ve not read the book (yet), though I sense I will as I hear the author’s premise ringing true to the one I’ve recognized in my own work as a parent, and as I continually speak to the necessity of an intentional and thoughtful relationship transition in the myriad ways that I do here.

I’d be interested to hear from you about how you engage in your own family and life with the perspective that the author poses in this excerpt.

http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/06/09/what-overparenting-looks-like-from-a-stanford-deans-perspective/

As always…Peace for the Journey, Dane.

Spring Break is around the corner…

With the advancing calendar, spring is right around the corner.  With that comes the decision about what to do for Spring Break – go home, look for a summer job, or with the new-found freedom of college take the first college spring break trip.

There are more than enough tales of famous and infamous spring break experiences, some of which you may be able to recite yourself.  We even have access to television shows documenting the escapades of raucous students tossing logic, good sense, and sometimes their very selves to the wind for a few days of “letting off some steam” to cope with the demands and pressure of the daily grind.

Surveys of current college students tell us that more than 60% will Continue reading “Spring Break is around the corner…”

Longing to Leave

The following is an excerpt from Irish writer/poet John O’Donohue from his book, Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on our Yearning to Belong (italics added).

I hear in John’s words the very heart of the message of what it means to parent well and to be an attentive human with strong intention. May his words serve us well…

Peace, Dane

“The loneliness and creativity of being a parent is the recognition that family is inevitably temporary. Good parenting is unselfish and, to encourage independence in a child that has received unconditional love, acts to reinforce the sense and essence of belonging.  Nothing, not even departure, can sever that intrinsic sense of belonging.  Children are created to grow and leave the nest.  Family provides the original and essential belonging in the world.  It is the cradle where identity unfolds and firms.  Such belonging outgrows itself. Home becomes too small and too safe.  The young adult is called to new longing to leave home and undertake new discovery.  The difficulty for parents is Continue reading “Longing to Leave”