A friend of mine told me the other day that her daughter didn’t get into her first college of choice. But she told me that her daughter was more resilient to the disappointment that my friend thought she would be.

She offered the anecdote as a lesson for me.

I have no doubt Ella is already more resilient that I am. The cool thing is, I’m helping make her that way.

How? And is that a trait I really value?

Yes, of course it is. How do I do it? In certain situations I remember back when I was a kid, and I remember what the adults around me did. Then I do the opposite.

There’s a line in a John Wayne movie, called “The Cowboys,” that sums up my parenting philosophy. Duke’s been beaten, shot and stabbed by a cattle thief, played by Bruce Dern. Duke’s an old man, and these boys he hired to help him drive cattle, who watched him get beaten to death and couldn’t stop it, gather around him, and he says to them before he dies, “Every father wants his son to be better than he was. Well, you are.”

The point isn’t to have my daughter fulfill my dreams, to do the things I couldn’t, or didn’t. The goal is to teach her a little more about the world than I knew, to have her feel more confident within the world, and more comfortable with herself. To be resilient to the world, to the rough breaks, and to the people who will try to define her roles for her.

There’s another line in that movie (yeah, I’ve seen it once or 10 times) that the Duke delivers to a kid trying to break a horse: “Keep your mind in the middle.” Forget about everything else, stay balanced, stay focused. Or, as a real-live John Wayne, a crusty old Army colonel, once told me, “Clint, sometimes you gotta say, ‘to hell with ’em’.”

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