I have to say that one of my favorite conversations to date was with Bob & Maria Goff. Bob is the author of Love Does and Maria recently released her first book called Love Lives Here, and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to talk to them about their lives as fearless parents, risk-takers and nurturing a sense of adventure in your kids.
Bob and Maria were such a joy to talk to and I hope something you hear encourages and inspires you! Here are just a few excerpts from our conversation.
MM: In your book, you make a statement that I absolutely love, “Do what makes you the most loving, hopeful version of yourself.” One of the things I’ve learned as a pediatrician is that when parents get their lives in order – their kids thrive. Can you expand on that statement?
MG: I think that one of the things that we struggle with, whether we’re a single person, a career person, a mother of a lot of kids or none at all, we tend to compare ourselves to each other. It’s a human nature condition. I found that I was doing that a lot as a young child because I struggled in school. That was a hard lesson to learn early on and I think what I got out of that is that eventually, we have to discover who we are – and embrace that without trying to judge someone else’s gift as more important than ours. For example, in our marriage, Bob and I are very different. I like to think of him as the balloon and I’m the string. Each of us is doing different things, but what each of us is doing is equally important.
MM: Bob, you and Maria have lived a lot of life together and clearly, you have a strong marriage – and you really worked as a team in raising your kids. How did you support each other while raising your kids?
BG: I think one of the things that stand out in my mind, is that Maria would always talk to us (myself and the kids) about who we were becoming, rather than who we were. Some people get “head-faked,” thinking they are defined by their biggest failure. And we’re not. Other people get “head-faked” another way, thinking their successes define them. And the truth is, we’re really all just turning into love, some of us more slowly than others.
Parents, affirm how far your kids have come instead of focusing on how far they have to go.
Maria doesn’t talk about how far we have to go – she talks a lot about how far we’ve come. And I think that’s what I’ve observed that makes our family strong. In parenting, just simply acknowledging how far your kids have come are words of life you can speak to them.
MM: Your parenting style seems to be quite bold. And you write about encouraging adventure in kids, and I need you to tell our audience, Maria, about how you helped your children “run away.”
MG: They were probably 4, 6 and 8 at the time and were playing in our safe, fenced in backyard by themselves. They came running inside and exclaimed that they had this wonderful idea that they wanted to “run away.” Of course, that pushed every mommy button in me! I wanted to knock down their dream and tell them they were too young and that it was a bad idea, that you can’t think like that. But I had a choice – to either knock it down or to get behind them.
And I decided that I would get behind them. I saw the delight in their eyes and their enthusiasm – that they weren’t running away from something, they were running towards an adventure they wanted to take together. And I saw the value in that. I thought This is beautiful. They feel like they can take on the world because they have each other. Their “running away ” involved tying all their items up into a scarf at the end of a stick, like Huckleberry Finn, climbing on top of our cinder block wall, and just marching around all 3 corners of our property line, making it bad for dinner. And I watched them the entire time through the kitchen window, as they discovered this “adventure.”
Don’t be afraid to encourage adventure in your kids.
When they got home for dinner, the tone in their voice was priceless! They felt like their world just got bigger. They saw themselves and each other in a different way. And I see them now, today, going on adult-type adventures with each other. So I think we can help plant those seeds in them when they’re young, in hopes that when they grow, they still know who are the people around them that have their back.
MM: It seems to me that both of you parent with the sense of fearlessness, and I see a lot of fear in parents. What are parents so afraid of?
BG: I think one of the things that come naturally to all of us is the fear of failing. You don’t want to mess up. But the truth is, failing isn’t a bad day, it’s just a Tuesday. I think that if there is one thing that we’ve spoken to our kids about a lot is “fail trying.” We’ve all experienced pain and loss, but I want to fail trying – I don’t want to fail watching. Failing every once in a while, or even every day, doesn’t define who we are.
MG: As a mom, the fact that I did hit rock bottom in the course of my life and did bounce back up means that I place a high value on hitting rock bottom. Sometimes I would pray that when my kids had rough spells, that God would get them there quickly… get them to that bottom place fast so we can work on the bouncing back up and all the lessons learned from it.
We don’t always grow where we’re instructed. We grow where we’re loved and accepted.
BG: We don’t always grow where we’re instructed. We grow where we’re loved. We grow where we’re accepted. What I’ve seen Maria do in our family, in particular, is to create a place where there is love, acceptance – it isn’t algebra class – we’re not trying to teach everybody new things – we’re trying to love them so they would grow in the ways that they’re meant to grow. And there’s something beautiful if you know you’re never flying without a net. There’s something beautiful for risk takers, when you just say “let’s go do this thing.” Our kids knew that even if they failed, they were loved unconditionally.
By Meg Meeker, MD