I had the pleasure of attending a Symposium for Mothers in Palo Alto on March 17, 2007 where Dr. Mary Pipher was speaking, and I want to share with you some of the things I heard that day.
First, I have to say it was a wonderful feeling to be with about 550 other women (and six men) who were there to celebrate mothers - and honor the power of what we do - protect, nurture, guide, and advocate for our children. Far from our life-demands, we had breakfast, saw old fiends, made new friends, and were validated for the support and connectedness we provide the community. The theme of the day was "The Shelter of Each Other," and throughout the day I heard Dr. Pipher saying find others and be inspired - you are not alone!
The dysfunction we are all experiencing is not from within the family (necessarily), but from the culture we have created that inundates us with information, television that renders our brains incapable of thought, and a social structure without ties to the people we see every day. Antidotes include dinner time conversations as well as time with grandparents and extended family that includes moral and character education, socialization, and stress management decision-making and strategies.
Exposure to our culture is creating people whose brains are not developing impulse control and decision-making skills until late adolescence - in fact, Dr. Pipher suggested that we may have artificially pushed the age of adulthood back to about 30, and given adolescence spans age 10 to 20, that leaves a new phase Dr. Pipher called "adultescence," for ages 20 to 30.
Here are some of the messages I wrote down:
Be intentional about what you expose your children to (particularly TV) - if not, you will be stressed, unhealthy and broke.
To protect our families from a toxic culture, connect to and provide connection to what was good.
Remember to tell your children that you love them and tell them when you respect their decisions or are impressed with how they handle a particular situation.
Advertising teaches against the messages from every religion - it says get it all; get it all now; you need it; you deserve it; and to heck with everything else.
Religions teach that you do not need everything (or now); it is better to think about others; and our responsibility is to make the world a better place.
The two most radical things we can each do to change the world are 1) Talk to people, especially teens and 2) Slow down.
For those of you who are nor familiar with Mary Pipher, she is a Clinical Psychologist from the midwest and she has written books about women, girls, and families that include: Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families, Another Country: The Emotional Terrain of Our Elders, The Middle of Everywhere: The World's Refugees Come to Our Town, and Writing to Change the World. She communicates with down-to-earth stories full of hope and compassion.