The Chinese word for “crisis,” urban legend goes, has two symbols: one stands for “danger” and the other “opportunity.” The use of the compound graphic gained popularity when President John F. Kennedy used it in a speech he gave in 1959. There certainly is an appeal to the misappropriation of the translation, as it dramatically suggests the presumed oriental wisdom that a crisis should be a time of opportunity.
Fifty years later, the newly tapped White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel modernized and validated the sentiment by declaring the other day, “You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste; it’s an opportunity to do important things that you otherwise would avoid.”
Of course, he was talking about the state of the country – and the world! But it made me think about the daily predicaments we navigate as parents. It jogged my memory to recall all the silver linings that eventually shone through the clouds of concerns:
A child bullied by a cabin-mate who was taunted until she made herself into a human ladder to provide access to the top bunk. A boy who had trouble separating from home to the point where his letters made his parents question their decision to send him to camp. A young teen who refused to eat because she thought she would gain weight and not be popular.
The child came to realize her dilemma and learned skills to deflect the bully. The boy found out that he could reach down deep within himself and succeed at something that was very hard. The teenager figured out, with support, how to eat healthfully and enjoy a good body image.
In the course of parenting any child, we are bound to butt up against a crisis more than once. But here’s the question. Can we identify the silver lining? Can we embrace the difficult times knowing they will lead to better days? Can we acknowledge that most every thorny situation has a bright side? If we look hard enough, can we see the glimmer of hope, the light shining around the edges of the cloud?
Resilience. Bouncing back from adversity. That’s what we need to teach our children. I think it’s the greatest gift we can give them.
Here’s the provocative part: We need to model the asset of coping. Indeed, we must take the opportunity to do important things we otherwise might avoid. We must do the hard work that comes with the job of parenting. Even though we don’t go to school for this profession, it is a career that requires us to strive for our best results, and one in which our leadership pays off.
Our children are counting on us to show them the way. Much as with the dialogue between the ant and the boy in “Hey Little Ant” written by the father-and-daughter team of Phillip and Hannah Hoose, a hopeful and distinctive perspective – wrapping your head around solving the problem and discovering the silver lining – can make all the difference: “If you were me and I were you, What would you want me to do?”