Never Underestimate Who Our Audience Is: A Story about the Baby Steps of Change

This story reminds me that our social curriculum (which I define as our intentional relationship) is ongoing.  Even to our silent audience members.

Several years ago, I did a short two-hour re-train with a set parent group. Most had read Howard Glasser’s latest book at the time (Note: this was before the release of my parent book, Fearless Parenting: Stepping into Life’s Greatest Role Using the Nurtured Heart Approach c. 2013)  – most got the concepts and intention. The community was the school I work in – but it was an independent Mom-to-Mom group. This night, the organizer had encouraged dads, too – and kids could play nearby if childcare wasn’t happening. The organizer who had invited me had heard me speak before. She told me it would be a small group (I thought 6-8 really)  – but still 14 came – and three Dads! I was impressed, as the meetings were set for our very small faculty room.

I began all my great stories, all Howard Glasser’s great stories retold, all Tom Grove’s quotes, and the wisdom that all have shared. It was my usual gig of humor and interactive discussion, personal reflection, a call to share. One of the moms who had attended my intro to the NHA  the year before was there again. She was a mom of eight. Yes, 8. No typo there. She is a lovely nurturer who amazes all who know her.  Tonight, she had both her husband and her 4th grade daughter in tow. The latter I knew well; I will coin her Silent Sally. Silent Sally was historically and powerfully non-verbal in the classroom. And when she was coerced into sound, she would  more often whisper rather than speak. And because she so often chose to not talk in groups, she did not sit ‘behind the curtain” with the other three kids dragged to the parent event, but rather chose to join all the parents in the same room of learning and engaging. All 15 of us sat around or near a large round table. My PowerPoint at the far corner, and Silent Sally nearest to it. Diligently, she ignored the parent and counselor voices. Diligently, she worked through her math and writing.

We gabbed on. I begin, “Name your three greatest strengths as a parent.” The grumbles begin, the self-conscious tittering, the self-deprecation – all good fodder for the start of the power of naming one’s own greatness before you can begin to name another’s.  And so it goes.  For two hours. Great questions. Great parents. Great topic. The mom of eight, who I coin as Mom the Great, makes several amazingly timed and eloquent comments throughout: highlighting the challenges, the need to reset, the power of seeing what is right. I should split my fee – but tonight I am gifting my services anyway for the joy of sparking a greatness parenting revolution!

As I drive home, I think about Mom the Great. I think about that kind of persistence, patience, energy, motivation, and clear wisdom. I am honored that she supports me – that she gets Howie’s vision – and owns it as her own. I plan to call her the next day.

She beats me to it.  The phone rings in my office around 9:00 am, just before I am to read 4th graders a fabulous book called Trouble Talk. We both “greatify” (just trying this iteration out here) each other’s amazing qualities. Then she shares the story, the reason she called, the one which makes this work so real – so transforming…

Mom the Great drops off her eldest daughter for Patrol early the morning after our group parenting retraining. I actually see her in the carpool lane (I am covering traffic that morning for my principal). But she drives away still with her van full; it is too early to release the rest of the brood. She tells me that they often just pull around the corner and visit and share. Their van is in front of a local preschool and all of the kids watch silently this morning as a father gets his small toddler daughter out of the car and readies her for the daycare. He leads the way without look back. And as the children watch the scene, Silent Sally (S.S.) speaks. “Look at the girl, mom. She is following her Dad. She doesn’t get out of the line or fall behind. She isn’t goofing around or anything. She knows where she is going. And she is doing it so well.” There is nothing but silent agreement from the siblings and Mom at first. In fact, there is only amazement from everyone.

Mom the Great (M.T.G.) shares with me how the air in the van literally changed – her gasp? Sally’s observations of what was going right in that moment could have been an exact mirror of the examples she had heard last night in her silent reverie: Examples of naming what is going right, identifying good choices, seeing the truth of the  moment, and holding up a mirror to illustrate it. M.T.G. is blown away. Last year, S.S. spent six  months working to give her Show and Tell in front of the class. Her gifted teacher’s tale of that success is a story in itself. S.S. spoke so little that they sought help with their pediatrician. S.S.’s favorite was of communication was nodding or shaking, looking away or mumbling. M.T.G. and myself have worked in the last year to give her less energetic relationship for this (after all, she was the second girl of six previous kids… How do you stand out?).   So on this morning, Mom the Great shifted: her lens, her vision, her belief, her hope. And for me… well, for me, she just made my morning.  I know kids get this before adults all the time. Confirmation is just lovely.  And Mom the Great?.. Even Greater for the sharing.

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