Hey Ma, “I’m still learning.”

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I woke up this morning with a need to write. Later in the day, a text message conversation with my son helped me understand my drive to write about this topic. When I took out my journal, I thought about my children and their journeys to adulthood. I was reminded of discussions with people of faith about life coming in seasons. Within those seasons, I was told we learn lessons and connect with people designed to help us live the good life.

This morning I reflected on a time when my daughter was about four years old and my son was about seven or eight months old. She pulled him around the house in his carrier. She read to him and towed him to the television to watch her favorite shows then to watch her play make believe with dolls or teddy bears. She taught him and he loved being her student. I loved watching them. I enjoyed that season of my life with them.

Then, they grew up. They matured beyond the middle school dramas that played out in my kid cab every day. As I wrote, I have found myself thinking of their journeys from toddlers through adolescent transformation to adulthood in my daily work with college students trying to figure out their daily grind and their next moves. Like my own children, they progressively seemed to be learning lessons that are only taught by living. I have looked at students and wondered if life was less complicated for them as children like that season when my daughter pulled a giggling infant around in a carrier. I have wondered if the young people around me had complicated childhoods that established the rocky foundations I watched them struggling to navigate.

It has been my honor to have so many students trust me with their stories. Through the process of raising my children I learned to listen, watch, advise, and encourage. I learned that I do not get to make decisions for them or act as their surrogate in journeys that each of them must walk to make it to their next. I hoped that their choices would meet their definitions of success. I listened to them as intently as I listened to my own children. I acknowledged their strengths and the courage it took for them to seek help from me (or anyone else for that matter).

Whether I am parenting or educating students, the process of supporting students begins with listening. I must listen in order to help them sort out the issues presented then guide them to a plan of action that prioritizes their challenges. I also remind them to refrain from harsh judgment the corrodes their self-image or makes them insecure about decision making. I ask them to just do the best they can with the facts know to them at the time. My daddy once said to me, in essence, to be fine with myself if I knew that I did all that I could do to make the best of the situation confronting me. He also told me, “to just do the best that I can.” Those words were affirming in my youth, but in my adult life I have benefited from the seeds of validation and empowerment planted by my father’s words. Finally, I caution young people to be flexible with themselves throughout this season and those to come.

Life has taught me that change happens. Perfection is never the goal when we are doing life. I have also learned that change requires flexibility. Flexibility can allow us to make adjustments without debilitating resistance. We might be able travel to places we never dreamed of in prior seasons. The pliable approach to living gifts us potential to have our passions and purpose fed. We might just do something more awesome than we ever imagined in a place that rewards us for the hard work and struggle it took to prepare us for the moment. I challenge you not to be limited by your fear, your frustration, your confusion, or your season. Respect the season and use the character of each season to build self-awareness, confidence, strength, wisdom, and resilience until the season changes.

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