One of my favourite parables highlights the place of ‘struggle’ in forming our character and that of our children.
‘A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther.
Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shrivelled wings.
The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shrivelled wings. It never was able to fly.
What this man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If nature allowed us to go through your life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly…. ‘
As parents it is always difficult to witness one’s children in the midst of a struggle. The parable reminds us that struggling is an important part of character formation and growing up to be a resilient and well-adjusted human being. I know myself that there have been times when I have had to resist with every bone in my body the temptation [and natural urge] to intervene and help one of my boys out in a difficult or stressful situation – and I often get this wrong.
Of course it is always a fine line between intervening too early and too late thus allowing a child/young person to become despondent. This is where relationship and knowing your child well is so important.
At the moment, and along with many Senior School parents, I am attempting to work my way through my son’s subject selections for 2018. This process, together with the complexities of the SACE and being cognisant of his aspirations and dreams, can make it a stressful time for all concerned. There have been many times I have been tempted to give him the [my] ‘right answer’.
The parable reminds all of us that for every ‘right’ answer we might provide – there is an opportunity missed for our children/young people to ‘struggle’ and in so doing learn something of themselves.
Investigator College, as a committed and professional teaching and non-teaching staff, seek to work in partnership with parents and caregivers to encourage students as they ‘struggle’ in their social, academic and spiritual development – what an exciting prospect.
You wouldn’t be dead for quids!!!
Mr Don Grimmett