Learning to Fail

I re-post this entry every year.  The posting has, to date, received more “likes” and comments than any other, so I sense that what I set out to say hit its target.  So for those of you who have recently marching through the high school graduation activities and are just beginning this process, I’m hopeful that this message will have a ‘centering effect” for all of us seeking to be successful in parenting our kids well!

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As we take a serious look at the transition, my sense is that one of the primary issues for us as parents is the fear of something we can’t imagine actually happening to our daughter or son.  Our culture is bent on the pursuit of success.  So, if that is true – and I’m convinced it is – the idea of failure then is often one that we expend a lot of energy avoiding and helping others avoid, especially those we care deeply for.

In my First-Year Seminar course for new Freshman, we spend an entire class period exploring the idea of “Failure” in order to expand our thinking about what it is, why it’s scary, and what we’re really afraid of – why have we been taught to avoid something that’s likely inevitable?  A number of the resources we use introduce us to how necessary (read: “vital”) failure is to reaching success; no matter the topic or pursuit.  I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but when I examine my own path, I know Continue reading →

What I wish someone had told me….

I recognize that at this point in the college transition process, there are questions that parents have, and there are questions that students have.  Some of those questions overlap and some are inherently different.

While I typically address the questions parents may be asking, I sensed it might be helpful for parents to hear with their students about the questions that some rising freshman may not yet know how to articulate. Many of these questions are around core identity issues, such as; will I make friends, will I do OK academically, will I miss home, and Continue reading →

Looking & Seeing

I find today a new sense of gratitude for Thomas Merton’s perspective…

“Because looking means that you already have something in mind for your eye to find; you’ve set out in search of your desired object and have closed off everything else presenting itself along the way.  But seeing is being open and receptive to what comes to the eye; your vision total and not targeted.”

Ron Seitz, Song for Nobody, A Memory Vision of Thomas Merton (italics added)
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The Core of the “Family Blessing”

 As I again enter into the Orientation season, I am reminded of the power inherent in the core of what I call the “Family Blessing.”  The core of this message is focusing on building self-competency for your daughter/son: that she/he can do this, and that she/he is not alone!

Each student has “landmarks” in his journey, often people, who helped guide him to this pivotal point.  Each landmark – a family member, friend, neighbor, or mentor — took a sincere interest in helping guide his journey, and as such, each person has a vested interest in his success.

I believe it is essential to Continue reading →

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 Continue reading →

Relationship by “Save As” —

As this new academic year begins, I recognize that it is often easier (read: less hard/difficult) to fall back on what I know, or how I have always done something.  I bump into the temptation every year, as I prepare the syllabus for a course I’ve taught a dozen times, to change the dates and hit “Save As”, then move on to the next item on the endless list.

So as I sat with the choice again late this summer.  I was faced with the question of how I might do this very familiar thing differently.  How might I consider another vantage point?  How might the opportunity present itself in ways I hadn’t previously considered?  In what ways might I engage with the students, the material, and my own sense of the experience differently so as to create a different outcome?

I did, ultimately, completely retool an assignment.  Time – and the student’s experience with it – will tell if the retooling is successful, but Continue reading →

The Effort to Listen

In the next few weeks, our students are coming home. They will be, as predicted, different people than the ones who left last fall.  They will be filled with new ideas about the world, about themselves, and likely about you: Mom &/or Dad.  Those new ideas can be both refreshing, exciting to engage in, and can also be a bit scary.  “Who is this person sitting in front of me?  She looks like my daughter, but I don’t recognize her anymore?

One of the many things s/he is asking of us is to listen to who s/he is becoming.  Its hard to listen when we feel fear about how things change; especially when it is a relationship we care about deeply.

We all suffer, at times, from the effort to fix or give advice rather than to listen. Theologian Paul Tillich puts it this way, “The first duty of love is to listen.”

So often when we refuse to listen, we become obsessed with remaking the world in our own image, or the way WE want it to be, rather than being open in our spirit to what is real and asking us to listen to the truth before us.

In the words of a Native American Elder, “To truly listen is to risk being changed forever.”

  • As you sit with this idea, can you bring your awareness to your propensity to fix or give advice?
  • Can you allow your breathing to loosen your hold on your efforts do or say something?
  • What do you feel about listening so deeply and attentively that you risk being changed?  

Peace, Dane.

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

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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!

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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 →