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San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor reviews The Gift of Failure by author Jessica Lahey, guest speaker at The DoSeum's Outside the Lunchbox Luncheon

In her August column for San Antonio Mom Blogs, Mayor Ivy Taylor reviews parenting book, The Gift of Failure, by author Jessica Lahey, featured speaker at The DoSeum’s annual Outside the Lunchbox Luncheon, which takes place on Friday, September 23, at the The Rosenberg Skyroom at Incarnate Word, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

The Outside the Lunchbox Luncheon, brings together strong community partners, educators and parents into an environment of collaboration and learning through engaging conversation on how to improve the quality of learning in San Antonio. The annual event features an influential speaker whose message challenges how we move through the modern educational landscape. Guests leave the luncheon motivated and eager to apply their knowledge in the classroom or home.

By supporting OLL, partners and guests are investing in the development of programs, initiatives, and resources designed to boost classroom learning and enrich the future of San Antonio children.

You won’t want to miss this unique educational and social event benefiting The DoSeum, San Antonio’s world-class, state-of-the-art children’s museum. Tables and individual tickets to attend the Outside the Lunchbox Luncheon can be purchased here online. And, consider adding tickets to a special Champagne Social with best-selling author Jessica Lahey at 1:00 p.m., following the luncheon.

I look forward to seeing you in person in September!
– Colleen Pence,

Mayor Ivy Taylor reviews The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey, featured speaker at The DoSeum's Outside the Lunchbox Luncheon

During the month of July, I spent more time with my family than I have in the last two years and so I thought it was appropriate that I spend more time thinking about parenting. I was looking forward to reading The Gift of Failure as my summer assignment. My 12-year-old daughter Morgan went through some serious changes and challenges during the last two months that tested my notions on and confidence in parenting and I hoped I’d find good guidance in Jessica Lahey’s book.

Let my start by saying that I do agree with the general premise Lahey outlines in the book: that children will learn through failing and that will help them to become persistent, resilient, problem solving, employed adults. And while I found the second half of the book to be valuable, as it focused on how to navigate school and the expectations that come with it, the first half of the book had me vigorously shaking my head.

For example, Lahey says that parents should not interfere or judge their children’s friends. “No matter how nervous these strange and different friends make you feel, it’s vital that you stay out of your child’s social choices, particularly in adolescence,” she wrote. I could not disagree more with a statement. As a parent, I believe I have a responsibility to guide my child towards relationships that reinforce the values and priorities we are teaching in our home, particularly during adolescence. Now, I understand children may chafe at that type of interference but in our home, part of what we are teaching is appropriate submission to authority and the fact that parents and those in authority often have the benefit of wisdom children do not possess.

Lahey was formerly a school teacher, and the advice she offers from that perspective was very helpful. I agreed with her lamenting the focus on grades and how that detracts from children’s joy of learning. The book has chapters that specifically focus on elementary, middle and high school.

Some of what I read has me thinking about adjustments I can make this school year. For example, I used to drive Morgan to school, and we arrived about 20 minutes before school began. Shortly after I became Mayor, my husband saw how I was struggling and volunteered to take over the morning drop off, but he and Morgan don’t leave as early as I did. I have been loath to say anything since he was taking over my task, but after reading the book, I realize how important it is for children to have that extra time before class to organize themselves for the day ahead. I will ask Rodney to leave earlier in the mornings.

I was also reassured in reading that full brain development has not occurred in a 12-year-old. I already knew that, but it helped me to know that Morgan’s judgment, executive function and critical thinking skills will all improve as she continues to mature.

My last critique of the book may be a little more controversial. I felt a little uncomfortable reading the book because I thought its perspective was limited. Safe, comfortable, middle class parents may have the luxury to think they don’t need to monitor who their child’s friends are. But I couldn’t help but think about parents in distressed communities with failing schools and wonder how practical any of the advice offered would be to them. I guess my reflections on how I was parented by Black Americans who grew up in the segregated south impacted my perspective. A career spent as an urban planner working to improve quality of life in tough communities is an added lens through which I read the book.

But in fairness, I have to say that the only book where I would likely agree with 100% of the parenting advice is the Bible, because I am not apt to argue with its author. “Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Have you read The Gift of Failure? What did you think? Join us at this year’s Outside the Lunchbox Luncheon on September 23 for an informative talk by best-selling author Jessica Lahey and then join us for a lively discussion about The Gift of Failure at the Champagne Social afterward.  Tables and individual tickets to attend the Outside the Lunchbox Luncheon and the Champagne Social can be purchased here online

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