Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

June 7, 2011

Dipsticks and Finding the Love

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 7:39 pm
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       My husband returned from what has become an expensive trip . . . filling the car up at the gas station, excited to tell me that he had thought of a great tool for this blog.  There was a fuel delivery at the station, and the truck driver used a supersized dipstick to test the fullness of the underground gasoline tanks.  Most of us are familiar with more compact dipsticks, that we use regularly, to see if our cars need more oil.  Dipsticks reach down into dark recesses to find the gooey good stuff that keeps our motors running.  Sometimes, parents and educators need to mine the depths of their history and relationship with children, to find the good stuff that keeps our emotional connections healthy and strong.

Feeling warm and gooshy around adorable infants and toddlers is easy.  Even when they do terrible things, such as paint the sofa in pudding, or yell at parents or teachers in the midst of a temper tantrum, we don’t usually assume evil, premeditated cruelty.  We excuse their misdeeds and are often rewarded, within moments, with some piece of adorability and pinchable cuteness.  It is more challenging to remain in love with our students and children as they grow.  They lose their babyish can-do-no-wrong attractiveness, and we expect them to follow rules, listen to us, respect and understand us as human beings, and so on.  At the same time, our parenting and teaching moves as children grow from clap hands or say “mama” to reading, writing, arithmetic, and life’s harder lessons like fighting peer pressure, being truthful, and making safe, healthy choices. 

Raising and teaching school aged children, teens, and even adult children can be frustrating and conflict-ridden.  Adults are more likely to be successful when they use their emotional dipstick to find the love they have for the children in their lives.  A dipstick is useless, however, if it only documents low levels of essential elements.  When you discover your car is down 2 quarts of oil, you hustle to the gas station.  When the dipstick measuring love and connection to the children important to us comes up dry, we need to find ways to refuel.

Father’s Day is a week away, so this is a natural time to reflect on the fathers in my life.  My Dad is the man who introduced me to dipsticks, from my the hand-me-down 65 Buick LeSabre I took to college, to my first new car, a 5 speed manual transmission Toyota Tercel, he knew the way to make things work.  Together with my mom, Dad taught me what it feels like to love and to be loved.  No matter what happens in his life, his children are central and his love for them, and his grandchildren, unending.  My husband, the inspiration for this dipstick post, has uncanny admiration and love for his sons.  His eyes twinkle at their antics and tear at their important moments. He is at once consummate protector and teacher and quintessential play mate. He has always loved them both for who they are, and for what they have the potential to become.

Uri Bronfenbrenner, a child psychologist who pioneered the ecological approach, a way of understanding children in the context of their complex environment, is quoted as saying that every child deserves at least one adult in their life who is madly in love with them.  Most children are not equally easy to love every day of their lives.  It is only natural that we will, at times, fall a bit out of love with them.   When that happens, we need to roll up our sleeves, use whatever dipstick or measure we have at our disposal to assess where we are.  More importantly we need to dredge up the love we have for our children that, while it may, at times, seem beyond our reach, is always there just waiting to be discovered and refreshed.



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