Thursday, November 6, 2008

Brené Brown and the Thing I Will Not Forget

I went to hear Brené Brown speak last night at our local high school. (Should I tell you about the shivers I got at the thought that The Kid will one day be a really big kid and attending high school?!)

She was speaking about parenting from a researcher/academic point of view but also as a parent, and not from an "expert" point of view but as an in the trenches, trying to get it right, parent.

She was stunningly honest about her own parenting mistakes and incredibly hopeful about her ability and our ability to keep trying to be better parents.

I spent a lot of time nodding because so much of what she said rang so thoroughly true to my experience as a parent. She shed light on so many of my own struggles as a person and as a parent, I fought back a lot of tears.

I have been struggling with and despairing about having to surrender The Kid to the little boy culture at his school. Brené reminded me that I don't have to do that. I don't have to "toughen him up" in order for him to survive the second grade playground wars. He can keep his tender heart and gentle spirit. He just needs the language and tools to serve who he is on the playground. I was reminded that it's not only okay, but essential to let him be disappointed, get hurt, struggle and fail.

I had become so distraught over the minutiae of his school experience that I'd lost all perspective. I think, now, I've got some of it back.

This is what Brené's talk did for me last night – it shone light on some of the dark places in me and in my parenting. Things I've been struggling with but have not been able to adequately articulate. No easy answers, not even one - but now I know where those dark places are.

I told Brené afterwards, it made me want to go home, rush into The Kid's room and say, "Wake up. I want to parent you right now!"

Brené did something else last night. I am, to put it mildly, very uncomfortable and self conscious in the school district parent crowd. (I spent two days worrying over what to wear.) They are mostly very well off, extremely well dressed, fancy car driving, McCain voting folks and I always feel inadequate and frumpy and a little ashamed of our old car and my very worn jeans when I am surrounded by them. (That was really hard for me to say.) I read Brene's blog and have commented a few times, so I emailed her to let her know that I would be there and that I hoped to say hello. So after being amazed and enlightened and brought to tears, I made my way down the aisle to introduce myself feeling very shy and uncomfortable and wrinkled. And when I stood before her, Brené smiled and was happy to meet me. She opened her arms and hugged this rumpled stranger in the midst of the well coifed crowd. She instantly made me feel accepted – like I belonged. It was one of the most compassionate things that's ever happened to me. I don't think I will ever forget it.


  1. I don't know this author/speaker so I will have to go check her out.

    It sounds like an amazing evening. Those moments where we really feel "at home" are the most powerful, aren't they.

    My son is a gentle soul, so I understand your worries for your boy.

  2. Hi Laura,
    I know exactly what you mean about often feeling out of place w/other parents, and about the big, bad world out there . . . what a wonderful evening; restores your faith in all that's good.

  3. Oh, that's wonderful -- that moment of compassion and acceptance. I've met a few people who it just shines effortlessly from, and it always makes me want to be a better person, to pass it on. :)

    And isn't it fantastic to hear someone speak whose words resonate within you like that?

    I think that when kids are given a chance to know who they are on the inside, and be comfortable with that, they are less vulnerable to outside events and influences that try to shift them from that place of knowing themselves.

    Maybe it's like crossing a busy street. You don't toss a kid into traffic to learn to cross. You hold his/her hand, accompany, communicate, before knowing that they have the confidence and ability to cross by themselves.

    Oh, yawn. That Owen woke me gasping for breath, after a coughing bout. Scared me to death. I want to stand over him and watch him breathe while he sleeps, but I have to go try to get some sleep and trust that he will wake me if he needs me. :/


  4. Oh! Laura, I hope Owen is okay.

    It was a wonderful night for me and I'm still sort of floating on the vibe. I had been (since before Halloween) in overdrive with way to many things going on and my whole life, parenting included was suffering from me being so frazzled. Self care had fallen completely off my to do list.

    I have slowed waaaay down and things are much better.

  5. she's an amazing mom/partner, the kid and I are blessed and lucky to have her, frump and all...