INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Recently a small but hardy group of Lake Tahoe School parents and I met for the very first Parents’ Book Group. Using The Parents We Mean to Be, by Richard Weissbourd, as our springboard, we quickly branched into all sorts of related topics that concern all parents.
The book, which stresses the ways and times that parents end up giving messages that are different from those we intend, helped us refocus when we needed assistance. The fact is, pretty much everything we do as parents carries a message, and all contributions to the discussion were welcome. It didn’t matter at all that only a couple of participants had read the entire book, so if that is what kept you from attending, please don’t let it deter you in the future!
Our next book group — open to any and all parents in the Lake Tahoe Basin — is: Friday, Oct. 26 (8-9:30 a.m.) Your Brain at Work at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, by David Rock. Please plan to join us. Its messages are very different from those of Richard Weissbourd and equally important and pertinent.
One of Weissbourd’s greatest concerns is how many modern parents seem to stress the notion that their children’s “happiness” should be their highest priority. He has discovered a significant reduction in parents who emphasize to their children the value of being good, morale, empathetic community citizens. He — like those of us in the book group — want our children to become knowledgeable and confident.
We want them to end up in life pursuing dreams and following passions, secure in their education and abilities. We want them to know they are loved and to love in return, even as they take on appropriate independence at each stage in their lives. We know, on one level at least, that we adults are the models to which our children look.
Last week I listened to many of our 5th-8th graders give candidate speeches for student council positions. The election process, including speeches, is only for students and faculty (part of that independence process), but had any of the book group parents been present, they would have witnessed how very different Lake Tahoe School students are from the students about which Weissbourd worries in his book.
Every candidate, from the six 5th graders running for class rep to the two student council president aspirants, talked about (1) what they have learned in school about the role of community in their lives; (2) the importance of giving back; (3) the value of listening to and learning from others; (4) their qualities as people that would assist them in collaborating and working productively with the students and adults at school.
They were, in short, magnificent. They talked about the Lake Tahoe School honor code, which stresses honesty, integrity, and respect. The audience, including our kindergarteners, listened attentively and respectfully. Even our young ones are tuned in to leadership when they see it, and they respond with appropriate maturity.
People move to Lake Tahoe and Incline Village for a number of reasons. Prime among many is the opportunity to raise children in an environment that remains a touch less “sophisticated” in a genuine, down-to-earth way than most urban and suburban areas. Parents are less in a hurry to see their children grow up.
We want them to mature at a much more natural/traditional rate than has become the norm, at least on television and in the movies. Our children are not so much sheltered as they are allowed to explore at their own speed and one prescribed by their parents. In the end, many parents in Incline have far more time to spend with their children than they would (or did) living in a city.
As author James Baldwin once wrote, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” In order to become the parents we mean to be, we must never forget that the children around us are watching and listening carefully. The good news is that, in this environment, parents are present to provide the right messages.
— Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at www.laketahoeschool.org.