My kids live a remarkably stable life, with the potential for an uncommonly stable life. Neither my wife nor I travel for work, so with a few exceptions, our kids have seen us just about every day of their lives.
They live in the same house they have always lived in. They attend a school that is K-12, so they have the potential to be in the same school with the same group of kids for all 13 years of their primary education.
My wife and I have a very healthy and stable relationship, so they aren’t exposed to volatile arguments or unhealthy conflict. They’ve never experienced any trauma or significant loss.
You get the picture. And I understand that they are still young and there is plenty of opportunities for things to change, but if they don’t this is an abnormal amount of stability.
Let’s contrast their life to my own. When I was 3, we moved away from all of our friends and family to an entirely new country. By the time I was 9, we had moved 6 different times. Including a multi-month stay at a Hotel. (My parents bought a new construction townhouse and it wasn’t built in the timeframe the builder agreed to, so the builder put us up in a hotel until it was completed.)
By the time I got to high school, I’d been through 4 different school districts and 5 different schools. Throughout my childhood, my father traveled frequently for work and we’d often go long stretches without seeing him.
During my early childhood, my parents did not have the most stable relationship and would often fight. This culminated in a separation when I was around 7. They worked things out and got back together and had a much healthier relationship after that 9-month separation.
We had a series of people living with us for various periods of time. My parents would open up our house to people in need, so there was always an interesting cast of characters staying in our guest room.
I experienced several minor traumas and a couple major ones throughout my formative years. Needless to say, stability was not a part of my childhood.
The Cost of Stability
This got me thinking, who is better off, my kids or me? Sure, some of the instability I experienced wasn’t exactly beneficial. However, it taught me to be adaptable and resilient. Qualities that to this day remain with me.
Is the unique stability that my kids are experiencing robbing them of the ability to build their adaptability muscles? I don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know that I want my kids to learn to be flexible, to know how to adapt when things in their life change because they will change.
But I’m not going to create instability in our lives, just to teach my kids to be more resilient.
Is Stability the Enemy of Adaptability?
The truth is I don’t think I need to create more instability in their lives. It may have been how I learned to be adaptable, but it isn’t the only way to learn resilience.
Stability isn’t the enemy of adaptability. In fact, stability might be the best foundation from which one can learn to be adaptable.
Stability creates a sense of safety, which in turn creates confidence. A sense of safety and confidence can make it easier to take risks and venture into situations that require adaptability.
I recently wrote about my acrophobia, which was exacerbated during our recent road trip. However, during our stop at the Grand Canyon, I noticed that I felt slightly less petrified at the areas with a guardrail. The rail gave me a sense of safety and allowed me to be more confident in peering down into the Canyon.
I was able to access more of my inner resilience and adaptability when I felt safe…well, safe-ish. In fact, my kids demonstrated an amazing amount of resilience and adaptability during this trip as well.
They faced a chaotic schedule, disappointments, numerous inconveniences, and more plan changes than I care to admit. Yet, despite all of this, they showed more flexibility and resilience than I thought possible.
So maybe I don’t have to choose between stability and adaptability. Maybe they have a complimentary relationship rather than a converse one.
Let me know what you think. Is stability a detriment to learning to be adaptable or is it an asset? How did you develop resilience in your life?