Book Club: “How Children Succeed”

Looking back on my childhood, I’m grateful for a stable family life and supportive parents. Growing up with alopecia universalis and coming to terms with it has been really rough, but at the very least I always knew I had people I could count on to help me through the worst of it.

For a long time, I’ve instinctively known that this particular factor – my parents’ unwavering support and reassurance – has had a major effect on the way I deal with life’s shortcomings and how I view the world in general.

I wouldn’t say things are necessarily easier now, but more so that new worries and insecurities have replaced those of my youth. However, I can also recognize that behind all of the doubt and uncertainty that characterizes this particular period in my life —and all of the inner turmoil that it has brought along for the ride—, there exists a belief that’s just as persistent as these feelings:

Source: Know Your Meme

Source: Know Your Meme


In the end, facing my struggles and persisting in spite of them has helped me develop a strong sense of self-efficacy. Sure, I have my own problems to contend with, but I truly do believe that if I keep at it, I’ll find my way. Even in the most trying of circumstances, I’ve always felt that things would get better and that it was within my power to make it so.

Again, I also can’t help but feel that my parents’ thoughtful guidance, as well as the values they’ve instilled in me, have been an instrumental part of that process. Had I not been fortunate enough to have that, I could easily be narrating a completely different story; one not about triumphing over adversity, but succumbing to it, and being a victim of those circumstances.

When I read How Children Succeed, I was once again struck with the realization of how fortunate I’ve been to have that support, but it was also really upsetting to get a first-hand account of how many people don’t, and the long-lasting, negative impact this can have on their lives.

I read stories of kids growing up in poverty and crime-ridden neighborhoods, with mothers who weren’t in a position to offer that support —many of which had grown up in similar environments, if not worse—, who constantly got in trouble at school (and with the law) and were labeled as irreparable troublemakers by the people around them.

The author also gives an inside look into the world of prestigious prep schools, where the students are the sons and daughters of affluent parents, and are consequently afforded all sorts of luxuries and opportunities that the regular layperson could only dream of. In the end however, a surprising amount of those same people reported that their home life wasn’t nearly as ideal, that their parents were often absent, and that they often battled feelings of depression and anxiety, among many other surprising revelations.

All of this information really bummed me out, to be honest. Here were all these kids, put in really difficult situations from the very beginning. None of them had a say in that, but there they were regardless, seemingly unprepared and defenseless against the realities of life and its struggles. They haven’t even been given the tools to help them make sense of it all, much less to try to deal with these setbacks constructively. For them, it’s simply a matter of survival.

Yet a lot of people don’t really seem to take these things into account, and just seem a lot more comfortable condemning as opposed to helping. Granted it’s not an easy job, and most likely not for everyone, but the same part of me that believes things can and will get better, also has a difficult time accepting the notion that nothing can be done in these situations.

In this sense, it was also very inspiring to learn more about all of the people who are actively working to counteract these negative influences, hellbent on making a difference and not leaving anyone behind. They get up every day and keep at it in spite of daunting odds and in doing so, clearly demonstrate an incredible amount of tenacity.

Tenacity. I like to think of that as the heirloom that’s been carefully preserved and passed down from one generation of my family to the next. The struggles of my grandparents and parents have been transformed into something of meaning and value, something that transcends the material world we live in and carries on through the lessons they’ve taught me and my sisters.

On days like these I’m especially grateful for them, and honestly feel completely indebted for all that they’ve done. My only hope is that I can honor their legacy and make them proud.

Good thing they’ve taught me a few things about working hard, staying on course and keep trying.