One of the best parts of my job is that I feel like I get a mini-masters degree in, well, life. I get paid to listen to the top experts in health, fitness, psychology and many other fields give me private tutorials in a variety of subjects. Then i get to drill down to the core of the matter and ask even more specific questions.
And when I tried my hand at teaching this year, volunteering to lead a Junior Great Books program at my son’s elementary school, I realized that one of the best things I could do was to “interview” the students to get the skinny on what they took away from the stories we read. It was as good an education as any I got when I was on their side of the learning curve.
Thing is, when my most important job is on the line, I sometimes have a hard time committing to this practice. That is, in parenting, I’m often guilty of lecturing rather than listening. If I could just get myself to bite my tongue and not look for the “teaching moment” in the simple tasks of the day (getting in and out of the car, for instance), then maybe I’d have a clue why my kids evade my brilliant parenting moves (clean up your room…or else! Do what I ask the first time…or else!) which mainly involve removing access to electronic toys.
Today, I read a great essay on Babble.com, which reminded me of just that. The author talked about her own limitations in getting her kids to open up—mainly that she was so preoccupied with solving it, with “actively” parenting, she missed the cues to shut up and listen. And by listening, I might just learn something—about my own parenting, about my kids and the people they are becoming, and about the quiet spaces where change happens. Whatever that may be.
This got me thinking about something I heard last night, when I was watching Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes, in which Senior Producer Jack thanked Oprah for all that he learned in 15 years of working for her. “This is where my soul went to graduate school,” he said, which stopped Oprah in her tracks. Me too. “I learned to be a better man, a better husband, a better father, right here.”
So, now I have it in my head that parenting itself is the graduate school for the soul. And I’m gonna see where that takes me. Starting now. What’s your take on graduate school for the soul?