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CAG Blog: Powered by Optimism

"Powered by Optimism" captures my reflections of life in and around an all-girls' school and highlights the values of C.A.G.: leadership, global citizenship, wellness, and teaching and learning. Underscoring it all is a deeply ingrained sense of optimism that we are preparing a generation of boldly creative women who will help change the world. 


anchoring adult- 9.3.14

I have been plowing, recently, through a book called Reaching Teens and the myriad accompanying videos available. The book is published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Ken Ginsburg, editor of the book and the more than 400  supplemental videos, is someone for whom I have tremendous respect and from whom I draw great inspiration.

The reason I am so drawn to Ken’s work (and to this book) is the notion of unconditional love that sits at its core and is its simple premise. Perhaps it seems naïve to think that we can motivate teens to make healthy choices and lead successful lives if we listen openly enough, respect deeply enough, and speak authentically enough. If that is the case, I plead guilty – I will admit to being naïve.

I have watched a dozen or so videos today, and I am struck by this overriding message: giving kids the gift of truly listening and doing so with genuine awe for who they are, is the greatest gift we can give our youth.  It means that each of us can be an adult who anchors the young people with whom we work or live. We can, in Ken’s words, be “the radical calmness in a chaotic reality.” We can hold kids to high standards, yet when they struggle, we can continue to believe in them and in the person they want to be.  

A long time ago, I was the single mother of two very young kids – and there were many days and nights I really did feel I was going it alone. Sure, my parents were extraordinarily supportive of me, but they lived across the Atlantic. Most of the time, I was parenting on my own.

This period of my life lasted for only four years, but in those four years I learned that there are few jobs as challenging as being a single parent. There were days when I was tired enough that putting a five year old to bed felt like an impossible feat. There were the daily routines, such as helping with homework that, at times, felt like the very last thing I could manage to accomplish after a day of counseling students.

Don’t get me wrong – I was one of the very lucky ones. I had a decent job, with an understanding boss who got that I was the one to deal with the inevitable phone calls from the school nurse. I had a mom who visited as often as she could, and friends who loved hanging out with my kids.

And then once in a while, a miracle would happen. My kids would find the anchoring adult that would love them and believe in them along with me.  I would see my children react with unadulterated joy when that adult paid attention, attended a performance or game, took them out for ice cream, and yes, listened to them, really listened to them when they were struggling. Sometimes, I knew, it was that other adult who would make the day have a happy ending for my kids – even when I could not.

I married a wonderful man 16 years ago – and he and I had a daughter, who is about to start ninth grade. I am not sure where the time went, but there you have it.

I remember when she first started to talk. She spent her days at an in-home day care with a wonderful woman. I remember walking in once and my daughter calling her caregiver “mommy” while she hugged her tight.

The caregiver looked at me, worried I would be hurt.

I just smiled. A long time before that moment, thanks to the wonderful anchoring adults in my older children’s lives, I learned that there is never too much love in the world for our children. There are never too many times a child is told she is heard, understood and truly known. I learned that children deserve an abundance of support.

Thank you, Ken Ginsburg, for reminding me so powerfully.


Posted by alison on Wednesday September, 3, 2014 at 10:10AM

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