When we’re out of our element and uncomfortable, we grow. Squirming around in unfamiliar surroundings, our stomachs beset with “jitters,” we’re forced to invoke courage and creativity in order to feel “at ease.” Our minds expand and spirits stretch with each life experience we struggle to make part of us, to call our own.
Mindful of this life-enhancing discomfort, I recognize that not only am I the mother of five relentlessly inquisitive kids, but I‘m also their guide. Much of what they are exposed to during childhood will help shape their beliefs about people and the world. My job is to challenge them and encourage them to flourish in each new situation.
I like to call it “resiliency training.”
When we moved last June, I mistook a K-12 charter school as the quintessential environment for my brood, having bought into their sales pitch as the perfect fit. But by the second grading period, I realized I’d made a grave mistake. Most advised me to stay put through year’s end; the kids had already formed tight bonds with teachers and friends, and were popular within their respective social circles. “After all,” many reasoned, “it’s a familiar routine and they’re not in any imminent danger.”
But I saw things differently.
A five star, A-rated school sat just around the corner---our boundary school. And in a matter of days, once the decision was made, I submitted all the required paperwork, and confidently informed the kids of the impending switchover that’d soon turn their world upside down.
I never asked them if they could “handle it.” It was an abrupt transition indeed, but all part of a bigger and bolder plan for them. I knew they’d need to endure a few days of discomfort before calling this new place their own. They’d have to push on through their anxiety and prevail.
By day three, all were nicely settled and radiated pride, proud of themselves for handling their uneasiness gracefully. Consequently, their self-confidence grew and they’re more resilient, better equiped to withstand the stress uncertainty generates.
This summer will be another test for them. In the four years since we’ve moved back from Latin America, the kids have lost their Spanish and all connection to Latin America. This has gnawed at my consciousness for years. Instead of lamenting, I’m taking action and making plans. We’ll rent a small house in Costa Rica and the kids will attend a local day camp, forced to integrate with the locals and communicate in their long-forgotten native tongue. My goal for them: develop the ability to navigate “like a local” in this world, too.
Did I ask their permission? Nope. Am I worried how they’ll fare? No way. I‘m the parent, the adult, their first life coach, and when new, culturally-enriching experiences, i.e. adventures, are presented as exciting opportunities, they get pumped up about it. (Read my upcoming book, Girl with the Crooked Smile, and you’ll see how I fostered a similar spirit about our 2008 migration back to South Florida.)
And, wanna know something? Not once have they questioned a single logistic or asked who their friends will be, or even wondered if they’ll like it.
That’s because as parents, the vibe we transmit is contagious. When we’re jazzed about something, the kids pick up on the positive beat.
How about you? What unique, out-of-the-box experience have you recently shared as a family?
Stay tuned for my upcoming book,Girl with the Crooked Smile...Stuck in a Moment
, due out April 2013. Free gifts given away on launch day!