When listening to folk music, I am listening to some of the formative music of my youth. Greying hair (actually all grey now!), aching joints (with two joint replacements), various heart procedures and living through the death of one’s parents makes me now reflect back on my life and consider where I’ve been, where I am, and where I still need to go. The contemplative strains of folk music allow for such reflection.
Numerous artists have provided such contemplation, but I would like to focus on David Roth.1 Singer/songwriter David Roth has been a favorite of mine for many years. His uplifting messages and “spot-on” analyses have provided a guide for what I call the 3 Rs of adulthood. Instead of the three Rs in childhood (Reading, (w)Riting and (a)Rithmetic), my three Rs are Review, Renew and Recommit.
- Review – only by reviewing what we have done well and what we can improve can we begin to re-chart our course of action in adulthood. And this review process should be ongoing. It should not be considered a post-mortem analysis of disappointments or failures but rather a chance to change positively for the future, for ourselves and those around us.
- Renew – a chance to engage in a renewal of purpose and spirit allows us to continue to make a difference in those around us and our community.
- Recommit – After we review and renew our resolve, it is time to recommit our energies to engage (become further involved) with sincerity of purpose and humility in action.
David’s music provides the perfect backdrop for such a process of review, renew and recommit. He has a compilation of songs on a CD entitled “Rising in Love” that was originally released in 1994. Each of the songs offers a unique perspective and speaks clearly to the need to embrace others. I would like to highlight just one today.
“The Armor Song” talks about a stoic father advising his son to always protect himself in interactions with others by hiding behind a “shield” or staying away from being vulnerable emotionally.2 His mother advises him to the contrary – that only by “letting your armor down” will you truly be a man. With the revelation of his mother’s wisdom, the young man now knows that when he becomes a parent, he won’t let foolish pride get in the way. He will “wash him (his son) up with laughter, rinse him off with tears and fill him up with loving that’ll last him all his years.” I just love that latter description. We should instill a sense of vitality (“laughter”) and sensitivity (“tears”) into the love that we give our children. Hopefully, they will do the same for their children.
The work of so many involved in the care of children has demonstrated the importance of safe, stable nurturing relationships or SSNRs.3 The work of actively establishing SSNRs should be proactive, will sometimes be reparative and should always be sustaining. Volumes have been written about parenting and child rearing, and they will continue to be updated as we learn more about neuroscience, behavioral psychology and mental health.4-9
But in the here and now, I want to concentrate on the potent salves that David Roth elucidates. Laughter is so important. It shares a common bond of the deep connection that people can have with each other. When smiling and laughing, we are connecting and sharing. (Note – I do not include laughter that is derived from making fun of someone. Such a connection is an erosive force, not a bonding influence.) So, I think it is so important to “wash [our children] up with laughter.” Laughter is the perfect cleansing agent for parents as they engage with their children.
Using tears as a rinse (“rinse [them] off with tears”] is a bit more complicated. I interpret this as the presence of humility and sincerity in sharing the emotional ups-and-downs (often mostly the latter) that are the challenges of our daily lives. The ability to share these tearful moments as parents (accepting and understanding another’s emotional turmoil) can provide that sustenance that is so clearly needed to help build resilience in our lives and the lives of our children. Our ability to respond to various stresses and adversity in the context of a SSNR (providing a safe environment and a sense of stability while all the while nurturing our children) is the key to maintain resilience and even flourishing in the years ahead.
It is therefore incumbent on all of us as we progress through the journey of parenting (and please don’t think that ends when the children are out on their own) that we engage in the three Rs of adulthood. We should be looking for salves (anything that soothes or relieves) in our interactions with our children. Let’s wash them up with laughter and rinse them off with tears. Laughter and tears are indeed potent salves in the context of SSNRs that can serve us all well.
- Forkey HC, Griffin JL, Szilagyi M: Childhood Trauma and Resilience: A Practical Guide. AAP Publishing, 224 pp, 2021.
- Szilagyi M: Roadmap for building resilient children coming into focus. AAP News June 2022
- King TM, King RB: Addressing the need for better measures of positive health. PEDIATRICS Volume 149, June 2022.
- Whitaker RC, Dearth-Wesley T, Herman AN, van Wingerden AN, Winn DW: Family connection and flourishing among adolescents in 26 countries. PEDIATRICS Volume 149, June 2022.
- Garner AS: A remedy in turbulent times: Helping families build “relational health”. AAP Voices Blog, July 6, 2020.
- Garner AS, Saul RA: Thinking Developmentally: Nurturing Wellness in Childhood to Promote Lifelong Health. AAP publishing, 175 pp, 2018.