The Secret of Parenting: Just Show Up

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I have had the luxury of working with children of all ages for the past 45 years. I especially enjoy middle schoolers - the group often dubbed the most challenging to parent and the most challenging to teach - because of their energy, their idealism, and their willingness to try new things. If you talk down to a middle schooler all is lost - they have radar for adult disdain. If you enjoy and encourage a middle schooler they will be an enthusiastic fan - recruit one for your next personal project, treat them with respect, and enjoy their loyal participation.

I recently began working with a middle schooler and - as usual - asked about personal interests: what's your favorite TV show? Your favorite book? What kind of music do you listen to? What's your idea of a perfect Saturday? This young person immediately told me about Grey's Anatomy - a long-standing TV show about doctors in a Seattle hospital - and so I agreed to watch "a few episodes" to get the gist of things. (Previous young people have introduced me to the band Nirvana, Beavis and Butthead, Taylor Swift,  Dexter, The Witches of Waverly Place, and YouTube videos on how to solve Rubik's Cubes quickly - you get the picture...)

Well, over 250 episodes of Grey's Anatomy later (I got my wife hooked, too), I now enjoy the various relationships and professional quandaries everyone finds themselves in on that show. And - in fact - there is parenting advice to boot!

In one episode one of the regular characters - Doctor Alex Karev (played by Justin Chambers) - is helping a new father whose baby has just been born to a mother who is about to die. The father is struggling - "I don't know how to be a father by myself!" - and Karev (in his usual brusque but loving way) says, "There is only one trick: just show up!"

I think this is good advice for all of us as parents: just show up for the events that will shape our child's life. These can be the usual "special days" - like birthdays, school concerts, playoff games, and the like - but they can also include making breakfast together, taking a walk, driving them places with their friends, and just "hanging out" after school.

This also means being really "present" - no electronics, no reading the newspaper while asking about their day, not taking phone calls on that walk. We used to joke about "quality time" but it is a useful concept: "be here now" is more than just a saying from the 1960's.  Some people talk about the "precious present" - not a material gift but the gift of now. That gift is available to us - and our children - all of the time. Just show up.

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This page contains a single entry by John published on April 7, 2018 10:26 AM.

Parenting for Non-Violence was the previous entry in this blog.

Back to School: Let's Prepare for New Beginnings is the next entry in this blog.

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