Post-Hurricane Grit? How Children Succeed after Freakish Weather. Okay, One Child.

Post-Hurricane Grit: Example of cautious optimism
My son came home from school carrying a crinkled drawing of a volcano with chasms of bright red practically pulsating on the page. Ordinarily I'd think nothing of his first-grade choice-time scribblings* but we'd just come through a week and a half of freakish natural events here in New Jersey. In the span of 10 days.  A hurricane, earthquake and then as if Jim Cantore still needed to get his money's worth from his TWC parka, an early snowstorm reminiscent of last October's white-out that took out power lines and trees along with Halloween.

It was a lot of unpredictability for my son who prefers his ducks, Hot Wheels and natural disasters in a row, the latter ideally situated far outside the New York metropolitan region. He could live without banging on a stranger's door begging for candy. He could live without milk and Cinnamon Toast Crunch**.  He could even live without Wii. But it was a lot to ask this new seven-year old to consider the possibility his home was no longer characterized by a reassuring atmospheric and seismic calm.

It was a lot to ask of a child whose bedtime routine sometimes resembles a call and response from the sermon of apocalyptic earth emergencies:

Tornadoes? No.

Hurricanes? No.

Earthquakes? No.

Floods? No.

Avalanche? No.

Tsunami? No.


Rogue Wave?

Meteor Strike?

True, I've fudged the realm of possibilities. I'm banking on the probability The Big One, whatever form it might take, will have the decency to strike after my son has shuffled out of the I've Just Noticed The World Is a Big Scary Place Stage. So in the last two weeks my son has had to re-draw his cognitive map of home safe home.  If he could no longer count on freedom from hurricanes and earthquakes then he could at least still fear molten lava from afar. Or so we hope. To the best of my knowledge there are no volcanic mountain ranges near New Jersey but if there are I need to know if only to add volcanic eruption to my home owner's insurance. As if I needed further evidence something is amiss here, Governor Chris Christie all but bear-hugged President Obama.

On the upside, I'm hoping the past two weeks of relatively minor upheaval instilled a bit of grit as Paul Tough puts it.  Saw the author speak yesterday at a school event. Barely hot food in the cafeteria, roads closed, trains motionless, gas rationed and Mr. Tough (say it aloud) still made it out to New Jersey from Manhattan to talk about How Children Succeed, his best-selling book arguing we focus too much on academics at the expense of "grit, curiosity and the hidden power of character." In other words, the kind of useful socio-emotional and socio-cognitive skills that I keep harping on that can't be instilled by Kumon, breast milk or speech therapy.  A thought-provoking thesis indeed but not as ground-breaking as the press would have us believe at least not in academic circles or here but in the parenting media and education sphere, yes, more revolutionary. A conversation worth repeating, a book worth sending to the principal, your niece doing student teaching,  your pregnant friend buying up dusty Baby Einstein DVDs.

Can you guess how the hypothesis was received at Momma Data? Will discuss next post.  Have you read the book yet?

Please excuse my online absence, the real world came calling quite rudely but thanks to everyone who asked after my safety and mental health. I hope those of you in the NYC area fared okay. Now that I'm back do me a favor, though and read the wiki of Mr. Tough along with his cognitive hypothesis, consider it our first Momma Data Book Club assignment and like most book clubs go minus the baked brie no one eats, you'll peruse the Amazon page and come to your own conclusions.

Finally, what did I miss the past couple weeks in the parenting media? Any good claims?

* Note the massive sun, surely a sign of cautious optimism and not a looming solar explosion. 

**The Cascadian Farms all-natural, organic version of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I would never allow my kid to eat the real version with all the sugar at least not when school is closed and I can't pawn off his super-charged little self. 


Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you're okay. Read the book already. Interesting thesis for sure but teachers have been talking about these things for years, the role of parents, the home culture, etc.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Thanks, Anony. Agreed, my parents, both retired teachers, have always talked about the parental-imparted perks that let some kids thrive.