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Portraits of Parents: Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

Among the many passages that life offers as we age, there is one we navigate almost unthinkingly: the passage of our children from "our children" to fully realized adults. There's a certain script society offers — one rooted in stereotypes about difficult adolescences, the difficulty of letting go, or even sitcom versions of meddling in-laws. But Professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, eminent sociologist and educator, urges us to look with fresh eyes at what that passage may present: unique opportunities for learning, growth, and reconciliation, which can enrich our middle and later years in unexpected and deeply fulfilling ways.

In her new book, Growing Each Other Up: When Our Children Become Our Teachers, she repositions the parent-child relationship as one of reciprocal growth, one in which parents learn and develop in equal measure, alongside their children. In this intimate relationship, what happens when our children become our teachers? What are the lessons we learn — voluntarily or involuntarily? And how can we open ourselves to the possibilities of renewal, of discovery? The book, based on detailed interviews with parents around the country, reveals the powerful experiences of learning that can occur when parents attune themselves to new possibilities and new dynamics that emerge as their children enter their later teen years — opportunities that continue to expand as these young adults venture into their own roles as parents and leaders.

Here, Lawrence Lightfoot shares her own experiences with this deep adult learning — recounting a story of connection with her own daughter, a visual artist, who created a painting of her mother that revealed unexpected truths, offering an opportunity for insight and self discovery.

Hear more from Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot on Usable Knowledge.


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