Resiliency Lesson from the Minivan

Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.


- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I started to write this article about helping our kids to develop resiliency last night, thinking that I would have the perfect words to describe to other parents how to go about doing this.  And now I am starting over.  Because something came clear to me today…

It’s not about them.  It’s about us.

Yes, I know – this is always the case…  And I don’t know why I am surprised when it continues to be…  But I am.  I guess it’s just humbling to realize that the lessons we continue to learn and grow from as parents, are really opportunities for our kids to learn and grow as well.

Let me share a story from the minivan to make my point…

I picked the kids up from school today, and just as we are getting into the van my husband calls (of course).  He has been working long shifts out of state and calls sporadically when he can.  I always want to get in a few minutes with him, because I am not sure when he will be able to talk again.  Unfortunately, I just picked the kids up from school and I am nowon the phone – you know where this is going right?

One minute into the phone call my daughter is wailing and crying because her brother wiped a booger on her seat belt!!!  Seriously.  They are 10 and 7.  A booger.  On her seat belt.

One of the definitions for resilience is the power or ability to return to the original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched. 

Ok.  So I was feeling a bit bent.  I let my husband know that I will need to call him back, and I found a place to pull over.  I took a few breaths and looked back at the kids.

At this moment, a little voice inside my head says give it to them!  They just cut short your phone call and who really cares about BOOGERS???  They’re just being difficult and demanding…

A couple more deep breaths to quiet that voice…

I let my daughter start.  “Tell me what’s going on,” I say to her.

She immediately starts to tell me the tale of her brother’s booger.  He tries to pop in, but I am firm about letting her get her story out.

Then it is his turn…  “Well, I accidentally put the booger on her seat belt.”

“You know what babe?”  I say to him, “When we say that we accidentally did something, we are pretty much letting go of the ownership, kinda like saying we didn’t really do it.”

“Ok,” he says, “I put the booger on her seat belt.”

“And now what should you do?” I say to him.

My son, who is using a napkin to take care of whatever is left in his nose, lets it dangle, looks at his sister and says, “Sorry I put a booger on your seat belt,” with so much sincerity, that it sends us all into a fit of giggles.

Another definition of resiliency is the ability to recovery from adversity.

So guess who worked out her resiliency muscles today?  Me.  And in the process, I modeled, and my kids were able to practice, some of the skills I hope they embody as adults.

The most powerful technique for teaching our children, is modeling who you want them to be.  Teaching resiliency is no different from anything else – return to your original form after being stretched, recover from adversity, the more they see you do it, the quicker they will be to practice it.

Have you worked out your resiliency muscles lately?