Last weekend, as I drove home from NYC, I listened to Oprah’s Super Soul Conversation with social worker, researcher, and writer Dr. Brene Brown. Brown has done extensive research on vulnerability and at one point in the interview, read her “Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto.” Though I had read it before in her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, hearing Brown’s voice read these powerful words had such an impact that when I arrived home, I immediately went to her website, printed them and hung them on the refrigerator.
The line that resonated the most with me was: “We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability.” Earlier that weekend, I told a friend about my 8-year-old daughter, Lucia’s upcoming test to determine whether she would compete in the Battle of the Books (a competition where local school districts meet to “battle” over who can recall information about selected books). I admitted that for the first time I felt like “that parent”. You know, the one who wants something VERY badly for her child. Lucia had worked so hard to read all the books, many of which were difficult for her, and to study the plots. I was confident that she knew the material but worried that her anxiety might kick in and prevent her from doing well. I desperately wanted her to have an experience where her hard work paid off and she overcame her fears.
Brown’s words came to me right when I needed them. We have always downplayed grades in our family. My mantra is: “ What matters is that you have fun and try your best”. I realized, why should this test and competition be any different?
I learned before Lucia that she made the team. When I told my partner, he, in his infinite wisdom, suggested that we celebrate Lucia’s effort rather than her test results. So we waited to tell her and instead celebrated that she acted courageously by doing something that scared her. As we sat at our local Stewart’s shop, we raised our large bowls of ice cream and toasted her courage. We pledged that as a family we would always show up and face our fears.