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Today, we have guest blogger Allison Koenig-Ford joining us. She's an English teacher in Florida, and an advocate for teens + mental health. She's an inspiration to all.
Most people will tell you that after having a child, you will look at the world in a different way. I had always heard this and wondered if it was true, or just something people said like, “Middle school is tough, but just wait until you get to High School.” And then, “High School is tough, but just wait until you get to college…”
Why do people tell us these things? I had always sort of resented it when people tried to warn me into being afraid. As a high school teacher, I tried my best to explain, rather than warn.
I did have a child—a girl to be exact—and my perspective did change, quite a bit. What began to blossom after giving birth, was another birth. A powerful perspective…one that no one had ever warned me about.
I began to look at my students with a new lens—focused and looking for answers.
I thought about the expectations placed upon them, I watched as they struggled to find their way, and find their voice. I observed them when inspired and proud, as they shared with the class, a thought, an insight.
With each snap-shot I thought about my daughter, Kennedy. I saw her in them. I was overwhelmed with what she might do in this world; the courage she might project. And on the opposite end of that spectrum, I feared for the labels which would undoubtedly stick themselves to her. So many children I meet have already allowed the label to introduce them, their ability, and their possibilities.
I began to see many adults who were once children, still wearing these things. I am this or that. I have always been that way. I have to do it that way, because it’s what I grew up with. No matter if it gets in the way of being fulfilled, I must wear our labels, I must repeat cycles, because that’s just the way it is.
Layers of insight were peeling back.
I started looking at myself, noticing many things I had bought into once upon a time. And while this awareness was painful, it was also liberating. The more I saw, the more I wanted to know. I wanted to know about the process of how we evolve, what that is like for this current generation, and what kind of power I hold against this machine. I got curious, challenged my own dogma, put on my own “thinking cap.”
I decided to write a book, to become a speaker, and to show up on another level.
I asked over 500 teen girls to teach me. To school me on how to be a good parent, how to show up for my daughter with love, and on what is really happening within their hallways. We talked communication, honor, expectations, social media, body AND mind image, and so much more.
This was the crash course I needed. It was touching, invigorating, and oh so eye-opening. They taught me a lot! But what I observed on my own was unmatched by any lesson I had ever learned as an Educator.
I witnessed their confusion. How they were struggling with processing emotions, how they had bought into labels themselves, and how they needed great assistance in getting out of that whole mess. It was clear to me that they could identify a friction, but that they did not always have the tools to articulate and breakdown why it had happened, or how they might heal it.
The good news?
That’s what I love to do! Break something down, find the source, and come up with a solution.
Teachers know how to do this, and they do it well. We are always looking for that angle, that phrase, or that metaphor that does the trick. We are proactive thinkers. We are always trying to get ahead of any issues that many arise with our kids…and from their parents J
Why are we so good?
We have been burned. Our lessons have fallen flat. And we make so many mistakes in front of a very expectant audience, each day. It’s humbling. It can make you into an incredible study, if you let it.
So here’s what they taught me about parenting—the Cliff’s Notes—as we all use them from time to time:
If you thought college was rough, just wait until you become a Real Parent.
*And I will NOT leave you with blank a phrase to scare you, as that is not enough, and never was.
Real Parent World…
Where you will need to find great patience and invest in the work. You will need to watch your ego in order to gain connection, and you will need to do your own work internally—for you can never expect anyone to do what you will not—unless you wish to foster resentment.
You will have to prepare them for far more than Algebra and understanding Lord of the Flies. They need to learn to transcend that label, to honor themselves, to back away when that is threatened, and to get outside of a judgement. Invest in teaching them self-reliance, as we know statistically they will be outside of our company more than they will be in it, God willing.
We must rise to the grand occasion—the great exchange. We have to teach and learn through it all--with them, and for them.
They need us. They need us showing up and holding this type of space, so that they might hold it as well.