Well over 300 people left the town hall in Kenaston last week with perhaps a few new tools to use and a reminder of others when it comes to re-establishing and strengthening connections with those around us, whether it be our children, our family members, or even the general public.
Dr. Jody Carrington, a noted speaker, author and child psychologist, appeared in front of a massive crowd at Kenaston Place on Tuesday night, February 4 for her presentation entitled, ‘Lighting the Way to Community (Re)Connection’, presented by the Kenaston School Community Council.
Blending funny, witty and razor-sharp anecdotes on life and her own background, Dr. Carrington put the audience at ease and it was clear from the get-go that this wasn’t one of those guest speaker talks where the person being promoted lords their education and credentials over an unknowing crowd. Quite the opposite, in fact; Jody doesn’t carry herself or even consider herself the highest expert on having the strongest relationship with your kids or your other family, and she knows that there are probably a thousand approaches that work for any other given family structure.
“I’m here to talk to you about engaging better with your kids and building a better community, but let’s be honest – I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about!” she said. “But we all have opinions, don’t we? And it seems everyone has an opinion on how to do this differently!”
Jody uses strong language in her talks and it’s something the Kenaston audience didn’t seem to mind, as she says we spend too much time “correcting ourselves” in society and it shouldn’t make a difference if a word happens to have multiple syllables or even just four letters to make a strong and effective point.
In addition to her own talking points, Carrington showed a few videos that helped drive some of her points home. One clip that showed conflicting parental ideologies ultimately made the point that, “No matter what our beliefs, we’re parents first.”
That theme of reconnecting with others and disconnecting ourselves from what Jody calls ‘exit ramps’ such as video games and mobile devices, and helping each other get through hard times or even just one bad day seemed to resonate with those gathered in the hall.
“We’re all just here to walk each other home,” said Jody. “When we think about all the expectations we have, at the end of the day, it’s all about this thing called ‘connection.’ We judge ourselves at the worst times, but we’re all doing this beautifully. We want to know that we’re doing something right. The one thing we’re missing more than ever these days is connection. Every generation that came before us has worried about the next one. We’ve never had so many ‘exit ramps’ to disconnect these days.”
Jody’s messages on everyday life and bringing up our kids and communities may seem perhaps ‘simple’ in concept and delivery, but in our hectic, tech-driven and increasingly introverted lives, it could be said that people may need a little more ‘simple’. The smallest of gestures can mean everything to other human beings; saying the name of a cashier at the till by way of their name tag, making eye contact more often, all those little things in our everyday lives that we may take for granted in our own interactions can perhaps be the difference between a good day and a bad day for someone else.
Carrington also touched on balancing raising kids and engaging with people out in public, noting that you can show genuine interest in the things they care about because then people will answer it back, so it’s important to meet people where they’re at from an emotional point of view if you want to gain any knowledge.
“If you want to collect, you have to connect before you direct,” she said.
Once again, it’s all about that (re)connection, which may mean disconnecting from a situation entirely and ‘plugging yourself’ back in to see things from a new perspective and perhaps gain a new appreciation.
“You can do hard things if you remember this – we are wired for connection,” said Jody. “When pain comes, when we expect hurt, we armour up. You’re bravest when you’re (re)connected. The bravest thing you’ll do is reconnect because you can’t predict the outcome. Conflict is a part of any relationship you care about; it matters most how you handle it.”
Carrington let the parents in the audience know that they’re doing just fine in how they raise their kids and told the Kenaston crowd that they need to get out there and ‘tell their story’, no matter what it is.
“Today they’re great, tomorrow they’re going to be great,” said Jody. “You want to be better tomorrow than where you are today because this community needs you, and everybody has a story to tell. Is being a parent the hardest job in the world? Yes, but you’re not in this alone!”
When dealing with the flurry of emotions that kids can be, Carrington said what works best for her is knowing the intentions behind certain emotions in order to approach the true root of the problem.
“Mad is just Sad’s bodyguard because being mad is safer than being sad,” she said.
The evening was something of a reminder that parents and community members are already doing a fine job, but they may have left the presentation with a wider view on things as far as empathy, relating to emotions and situations, and strengthening connections with everyone around them.
“The most vulnerable emotion on the planet is joy,” said Jody. “If you have joy, anything can happen to you. Leave this town better than you found it; make the eye contact, give someone a compliment. Leave the game better than you found it!”
The two-hour presentation received a standing ovation from the massive crowd, perhaps highlighting what Kenaston SCC treasurer Darla Collins told them before Dr. Carrington took the stage: “You’ve never been here for a night like this!”
Evidently, it’s a night that not many of them will soon forget.