Monthly Archives

October 2017

Jazz Band

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By: Dr. Lucie Pentz

Over the weekend I was talking to my husband who is a fellow child psychologist and knows our community well. I was preparing a talk for parents and staff and looking for a musical metaphor to describe the St. James Academy community.  I said “I think that SJA is like a large orchestra” and he looked at me and said “No way, orchestra is way too prescribed.  St. James is more like a jazz band.” So, SJA is like a large jazz band.  The more I thought about it, the more the description seemed to fit.

So what do we know about playing in a jazz band?

— There’s the band leader, the player most in charge.

— There are different instruments, gifts and talents of the musicians, and parts of the music, but one melodious musical sound. We’re all different, but we play together and produce music.

— This beautiful music does not happen without following certain rules and structure. Everyone plays together in the same key and the same time signature but NOT the same notes. We have the SJA Honor Code, Handbook etc.. to provide the structure within which we get to improvise and play our individual parts.

— There’s time to solo and time to be play a supporting role while attentively and sensitively listening to our fellow band members.

— Every player has an equal value but a different role producing a balance between individuality and conformity. So on one hand… we have the beautiful individuality of each talent and on the other hand we have the conformity of following the rules, structure and boundaries as we all listen to and follow our band leader and fellow musicians.

— There’s a fine balance between focusing on ourselves and our own contribution to the music and noticing (not criticizing) what others are doing. When we mess up or others mess up, we extend grace to ourselves and others.

— This is also a good time to realize and respect that not everyone will make music the same way you do or the way you would like them to.  There’s always the squeaky saxophone that may annoy you, but it might be liberating to know that sometimes we get to be the squeaky saxophone to somebody else.  You will likely meet some members of the community that may not be your cup of tea. And that’s okay. You don’t have to be best friends, you just need to play well together.

— So no good music comes from chaos, everyone doing as they wish, showing little consideration for others. The “we” is more important than the “I”.

As we start another year, let’s be a great jazz band. Let’s make beautiful “cool” music together.

On Stage Parenting

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By: Dr. Lucie Pentz

A few summers ago my husband and I were vacationing outside of Bar Harbor, Maine. We took a nice, leisurely hike up Flying Mountain and were enamoured by the beauty of coastal Maine. Once we reached the summit, we found a comfortable spot to sit down and bask in the quietness that only nature can provide, that is until our little silent nature party was crashed. The peacefulness was suddenly disturbed by a loud conversation, though, to be honest, more like a monologue, specifically an apparently well-meaning mom giving a lecture to her two young children. Her intended audience seemed more interested in digging in the dirt than listening to her oration on the intricate structure of a centipede. The mom’s lesson went on and on and on. My husband leaned over and whispered into my ear, “She’s not talking to them (referring to her children); she’s doing that for our benefit.” I cracked up. He was probably right. As parents, we’re always trying to prove, defend, perform and convince. We think we’re on an invisible stage or trial. We are trying to prove that we are not just good enough parents, we are striving for perfection. We’ve all been there when fellow parents are overhearing our conversations, and we hope to sound appropriately parental, striking just the right balance between not being too much of a pushover but still validating our children’s feelings. We’ve all been there when our children are openly (and maybe proudly) misbehaving in the middle of the supermarket after we’ve given them a hundred of gentle reminders. Suddenly we find ourselves thrust under a gigantic spotlight with every shopper in the store (or so it feels) anticipating our next action. We’ve all been there when our child picks just the perfect time to ask us about a sleepover in front of his friends, and we have to decide in split seconds how to react. That’s what I call on stage parenting. It gets even worse. The actor and the critic are in one body. We are our own worst critics. In the world where good enough is no longer good enough, we have bought into the lie that perfection is attainable. I honestly don’t recall my parents losing sleep at night soul searching whether my math grade truly captured my mathematical potential or whether my play date with my little friends went according to parents’ expectations.

But on stage parenting requires lots of mental rehearsing, revisiting, stressing over and environmental engineering. In those moments of stressing, we all need an arm around us that will say, “Listen, you’re doing your best. It’s not like all of a sudden your child will morph into a monster. Trust the process. It will all work out. Sooner or later.” It’s not really about the individual moments, but rather the patterns and the trends of our children consistently bearing the good fruit of our parenting labors. Growing children is like growing a garden. Sure, it takes a lot of attention and care. But it also takes a lot of patience, acceptance that there are elements of the weather that we can’t control, and recognition that all our consistent care taking is going to pay off in the end. Just remember that sometimes it takes a few windy storms to strengthen the roots. We ultimately enjoy the rewards of what we’ve produced, and it doesn’t require winning a blue ribbon at the State Fair!

Who do you want to be when you grow up?

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By: Dr. Lucie Pentz

Who do you want to be when you grow up? This is the million dollar question.

A few summers ago, on a pleasant July night, I was taking a walk in our neighborhood with our then third grader, holding an empty pickle jar in our hands, trying to catch a few lighting bugs. (No, we did not catch any, in case you’re wondering). There must have been something about the warm, relaxing breeze that opened the door to the deeper questions of life to surface, such as, what do you want to do when you grow up? Filled with curiosity, I asked whether he was still interested in becoming a firefighter which seemed as an understandably popular choice for an adventure-seeking third-grade boy. The conversation continued, admittedly fueled by my incessant questions.  With his big brown eyes, he finally looked at me and resolutely announced, perhaps just trying to stop the flood of the existential interrogation.  “ Well… you just never know what life will bring your way.” While my curiosity was dismissed and went unsatisfied, I realized that I couldn’t agree with him more.

Yes,  it’s true we never know what life will bring our way. Careers change; interests shift or morph into yet another variation. Our hopes, goals, and aspirations may fade, often unrealized like blowing bubbles that vanish into the air and eventually burst into nothingness. We all have experienced those moments of pivotal turns, crushed dreams, and unexpected detours, trying to navigate the life for which we did not prepare. Many times, feeling shook up and disoriented, we search and grasp for scripts and recipes to guide our next decision. But deep down inside, we know there are no how-to books or tutorials that would speak into our jumbled circumstances. So, what is left then, when the question of what do you want to do when you grow up feels so daunting? Perhaps we’re not asking our children the right question. What about this?… Who do you want to be when you grow up? What kind of person are you hoping to become? At the core of our parenting efforts, we return to the essential all-supporting and all-encompassing foundation of character. Those collective virtues of wisdom, kindness, humility, selflessness, and too many other qualities to name, form the bedrock of character that sustains us through the uncertain circumstances of life.  What do our children do when no one is looking, when the work is not being graded and trophies are not dispensed? What do our children say behind our backs when we’re not listening? What do our children do when they’ve been wronged and are tempted to seek revenge or when there are no immediate or obvious payoffs or rewards for doing the right thing.  All those moments of decision-making represent the opportunity to make choices that develop and ultimately reflect character.

So the real question guiding our parenting and the developmental path taken by our children ought not to be “What do you want to be (or do) when you grow up?” but rather “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”  In the long run, being always precedes doing.  Who you are will determine what you do.

Our third-grader was correct. While we cannot completely prepare our children for the right career or vocation, we can equip them for the ups and downs of life, twisting, hilly (or mountainous) stretches of the road, as they journey towards character with us by their side. We are the shepherds of their souls, keeping watch, guiding and loving on them all the way in firm yet gentle ways.

Would you like to further explore the topic of character together? Come and join us at St. James Academy on October 18 at 9:30. We will talk about the journey towards character through creating your family mission statement. We’d love to have you join us.

Register for “Character Matters: Raising Your Child for the Ultimate Success”