grit & glenda

Once upon a time…when Eleanor was in preschool…there was a damsel in distress. Quite literally.

One of Eleanor’s classmates had climbed up into the reading loft. She had her arms perched on the railing, and her head tucked in her hands. And she was sighing. Loudly.

So I wandered over to check in. “Can I help you?” A shake of the head. More sighing.

“Are you sure I can’t help you?” More shaking. Definitely more sighing.

“I want you to know I am right here. Whenever you are ready, I’d like to help.” She was clearly getting exasperated. The volume of the sighing was approaching that of a roar.

“I am waiting for my Prince Charming to come and save me!” She announced a bit crossly. Because, clearly, things weren’t turning out quite as she had imagined. And that is just what we hope for.

Last Wednesday night I joined a group of parents at Narrows Brewery. The conversation focused on kids & success. One of the components we talked about was motivation. And within motivation the importance of grit.

Grit is about getting up, and doing it again. Grit is about things not going the way we hope it will, and figuring out what to do next. Grit = Passion + Perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is sticking with your ideas about your future –day in & day out — for years.

And one of the questions that came from Wednesday night was, how do we teach grit? In a world of 24 / 7 instant access, how do we teach stamina? In world where answers come at the speed of a sprint, how do we coach kids live life like a marathon?

We stop Charming them. We stop jumping in the moment they experience discomfort. confusion. failure. We no longer rescue. Not that we ignore them. But we don’t save them. We step to the side, instead of stepping in front.

Building grit is sneaky. Because we equate love with problem solving. But our children need us to be Glenda. To show them the start of the yellow brick road, provide some sparkling red shoes, and send them on their way. Grit means letting them fall asleep in the poppies. Grit means letting them get carried off by flying monkeys. Grit means they will learn to stand up for themselves and their friends and toss water on wicked witches.

Metaphor is fine and all, but what does grit look like in real life? This.


Well, this is what grit looked like yesterday at my house. Eleanor has a favorite pair of pajamas. She changes into them the moment she gets home from school and hardly changes out of them on the weekends. It’s been true love since she opened them Christmas morning. Alas, all this wearing means the feet are beginning to get a bit threadbare. Yesterday, she noticed. And burst into tears. Big, huge, splashing wet tears that foreshadowed what her first break-up might look like. And I might have googled ‘girl cow pajamas’. And I might have found exactly what I was looking for. And I might have been about to say “look! look! we can order more!” before I stopped myself. And thought about grit. And let her cry. And sat there with her. And gave her time to realize that although letting go is hard, she is capable of hard things. grit.


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