Growth Comes through Struggle…Period.

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November 9, 2017

Dear Families,

I received permission from my son to share this story with you. I do not take my role as middle school principal lightly. I spend sleepless nights worrying about each and every one of my students. I desire first and foremost to support them as they work their way out of the cocoon of childhood into the freedom of young adulthood. But I know too well that it is a road filled with heartache and challenge. Our greatest responsibility as parents is to empower our children to stand firm in what is right and build strength and resilience to face a harsh world.

I shared previously that at the age of 9 Hunter’s baseball team went to the World Series. They took second place. Two weeks later, Hunter’s coach cut him from the team. He told us Hunter “does not have what it takes to go to the next level.” I repeat. He was 9 years old.  We spent weeks devastated by this news.

Looking back, we realize that being cut from his team was the best thing that could have happened to Hunter.  But hindsight is 20/20. As a mom, I wanted to give the coach a piece of my mind. As an Italian, let me tell you, I had a large piece to give him. How dare he? My son was 9 years old. I don’t know about you, but I am raising my all-time favorite player. I could not swallow what I believed to be the greatest injustice of all time. But let me repeat, being cut was the best thing that could have ever happened to Hunter.

He determined that he would do whatever it took to prove to the coach he had what it took. Through grit and determination, he battled to improve.  He worked every day. Three years later, his coach, the very same one who cut him, came to a game to watch Hunter play. At the end of the game, he invited Hunter to join his 13 Majors team. Hunter’s 1st place World Series Championship trophy sits high on his dresser to this day.

Hunter’s baseball journey continues to unfold. During the summer of 2016,  Hunter attended two college showcases. Two college scouts expressed deep interest in Hunter’s talent. Why? Certainly not because we fixed anything for him. He buckled down and battled through disappointment, rejection, and heartache. After a recent showcase, I asked him if he was ready for the intensity of the next level. His response astounded me. “I don’t know, mom. I really don’t. But I know that I will never regret the pain and heartache of baseball. It taught me who I am and what I’m made of. So, no matter what, it was worth it.”

Neither Paul nor I can take credit for Hunter’s success. Could we have rescued him? Absolutely. But to what end? We can’t protect him from pain, nor should we. How will he build resilience?

Currently, we watch as he navigates a gut-wrenching decision. Life changing to be sure. I emphasize that we watch. It is not ours to make. Nor should we even attempt to make it for him. Why? We don’t have to live the implications of the decisions. Do we want to tell him what to do? ABSOLUTELY! Will we? ABSOLUTELY NOT! We will be a sounding board for him. We will answer questions. We will provide him opportunities to discuss the decision with trusted, wise adults. But ultimately we will stand by and support him as he makes the decision.

I know my son. Selfishly, Paul and I will both be devastated by his final decision. But he will make it from a place of maturity. I know that statement sounds arrogant. But I know all of the pain and loss he has endured in his short 16 years. That pain and loss equipped him to be in this place.

I share this with you because I know that it is hard to watch your child struggle. I know that it is hard to watch your child endure disappointment. But I know that each of those struggles when faced head-on by your child, allows strength to build. Each creates deep resilience within your child. It builds strength and resilience within them so that when you can’t fix it or you are not available, they can. I implore you to walk alongside your child in their disappointments and frustrations.  But empower them to fix it. Please don’t rescue them. Please.

I love your children. Every. Single. One. I would give my life without hesitation to keep them safe. But I want them to struggle. I want them to endure disappointment. They need it. They can handle it.  They will survive it. So, will you. I promise.

Honored to Serve You All,

Janet Worley

Food for Thought: The following links provide thought-provoking information about the importance of resilience. I encourage you to explore these and other resources as you help your child(ren) build resilience in a world that we could not have fathomed would ever exist when we were teens.

The 7 Cs: The Essential Building Blocks of Resilience

Building Resilience in Teens