In college, I went to see a movie with a friend. The Story of Us starred Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer, and was mostly unremarkable, except that it gave me and my friend, Halbe, a short-hand way to check in with each other. Over the course of the next years, I would run by her room, answer a phone call from her or see her on campus and one would say to the other “High, Low?” In other words, what was the high of your day and what was the low?
I like checking in about the day with my loved ones. My parents had a hectic schedule when I was growing up, but always wanted to know about my day. And on Friday night, we would recap the week. My husband and I check in with each other by ourselves and, then, with our children. When my daughter gets in the car after school, I ask what she did, what she enjoyed, who she had fun with. When I chat with Halbe, even now, we look for a run down of the goings-on in life. But, I often ask about challenges in addition to the successes- with all my loved ones. I am interested not only in the good, but, also in the frustrating, the challenges and the problems. Why? It sounds a little messed up…
After much didactic and practical experience in graduate school, we were finally tasked with writing a statement of professional philosophy. After reviewing all the theories we had studied, broken down and talked about, I chose a relatively simple one to focus my philosophy around. Nebit Sanford wrote about challenge and support. Simply put, he wrote that if we can provide challenge and support in an appropriate balance for the student and situation we will facilitate development in that student. In fact, he posits that challenges, given varying levels of support, will result in different developmental trajectories. Sanford’s theory was my focus because of its truth and simplicity, but also, because of how fully I felt connected to this theory personally. I, therefore, rely on it in my professional life, but have come to use it in my personal life.
So, lest you think that my life is just one big lab rat situation…it isn’t. I am intentional, especially in my parenting, in trying to provide support to my children to match the challenge they are facing. But, to me, and apparently to the writers of The Story of Us, the lows in our days also provide a goal for tomorrow. What Halbe and I did in college, checking in about the best and most frustrating of our days, made me more mindful about challenges in general. Were they often similar? What could I do to change or fix the situation? AND what could I do to support Halbe with her frustrations?
I recently told Halbe about this post and shared with her that I ask Nina about her highs and lows…it turns out, she does the same with her daughter! Not only does that give me warm fuzzies, but it also makes me hopeful for our daughters. I’m hopeful that both our daughters will grow up understanding that the great in the day is great, but challenge is a part of life, and so is problem-solving through them.