It is a thorough openness to the world that fosters a fragile duality ofoutcomes: in strong, supportive social settings, they thrive like no other child, but in critical, undermining settings, they can devolve into lives of disorder and despair.
Though she held within her the possibility of brilliance and greatness, she found herself embedded within a family where critique and disapproval, though unintended and perhaps largely unconscious, were the order of the day and where a female orchid was bound, perhaps, inexorably, to a life of disappointment, failure and ill healthy.
1. The menace of novelty and comfort of the ordinary
more frnkly orchid constitutions - a counterbalancing reliance on sameness and routine, which provides a child with a sense of control and a backdrop of certianty and samenss in a wrold sometimes maddeningly disordered, unpredictable, and inchoate.
2. The love of a child: the pervasive presence of a parent's attentiveness and love. It is this steadfast love from a caring adult that can transfigure the life and development of children, especially orchid children. The most cherished moments with our children come during intervals when they are least expected. Such moments cannot be arranged or planned. They simply surface out of the normal, monotonous flow of daily life, when sufficient ordinary time has been passed between parent and child. It is during such ordinary time that these moments of extraordinary communication and intimacy can occur. The gathering beauty of the sun's descent prompted Andrew to pause and take me deeper into his inner world. It was a sensible but unforeseen disclosure - a literally momentary interlude within a four- or five-hour expanse of time - possibly anticipating, or trying on, the direction of a future life and career. It would likely not have happened wihtout the long prior car ride, followed by tedious slogging through several miles on a foggy footpath.
3. A responsiveness to differences:to recognize and honor the goodness of human difference.
4. A grounding in Forbearance and Freedom: whose parents offer acceptance and affirmation of the child's true, tenderhearted, and creative self.
5. The finely drawn line between protecting and provoking. the families of orchid children must also seek and achieve a well-tempered balance between measured protetion and emblodened exposure.
6. The potency of Play: must be schooled in the great virtues of play, fantasy, and imaginative fun.
Both had within themselves a strong sense of uniqueness and personal destiny, as if there were a secret, special role for which each one was solely made. And both revealed an impressive commitment and capacity toward enacting and making real these special visions for their lives. Neither were loners, neigher inhibited. And both were embedded in apparently committed and enduring romantic relationships.
Orchid children had exaggerated, heightened repsonses to mild laboratory stressors in their now distant preschool years. Each of them had spcial sensibilities that led, to an intolerance for the pedetrian, to a talent for ballet, and for others, to a sense of easy overstimulation or being overwhelmed in intense or corwded ocnditions.
Dandelions, in their ealy years, revealed impassive, minimal biological reactivity to the very same laboratory challenges that triggered vigorous repsonse in the orchids. And all now reported life experiences reflecting some aspect of steday, resilient reactions in the face of real adversity.
Four insights from the 8 interviewees (4 groups)
1. the striking diversity of the orchid and dandelion groups.
2. We are, each of us, always "becoming," forever changed from the person we once were, but not yet transformed into the individual we are still to be.
3. Lives are intrinsically unpredictable.
The world can be a scary, dark, and lonely place - whether you are young and frightened or aged and tired, whether akin to a sturdy dandelion or to a tender orchid. There are moments and encounters in every life when the dread and terror of the world rise up, and there are places on the map of every life where "here be dragons" should be prominently scrawled in seenteenth- century calligraphy. There are winged shadows of iniquity and cruelty that we all hand down, generation to broken generation, grandparents to sleepless child. But there are also moments of grace, when unexpected goodness ariives, from some dep, unseen reserve of love, and makes it possible for us to rest and sleep and trust that alll will finally be well.
Each human life is a pearl of inestimable value. At our core, every one of us born into this bridght, troubled world is a being a radiant complexity and unspeakable worth. We are all, as the psalmist had it, "fearfully and wonderfully made." whethere we ascend some vaunted ladder of fortune or abide within a hiddend life whether we achieve great things or small, whether we are clever, average, or dull, whehter pleasing to the eye or possessed of a countenance only a mother could love, we are each of us so great a miracle of creation as to make all the vagaries of station, stature, and strength like the window dressings fro a masterpiece.
And yet there are lives, like that of my sister, Mary, that possess within them such enormous, silent possibility for both misery and joy, foundering and flourishing, that there falls perhaps upon all of us a shared obligation to intervene, a collective responsibility to assure protection and safety in the lives of the vulnerable.
1. the first fundamental error is the following: any child can ben harmed and undone if the stressors are sufficiently pervasive, pernicious, and severe. Another mistake provoked by the assumption that differences in childhood adversity effects are attributable to vulnerable and resilient children is the misimpression that the "vulnerable" are susceptible only to negative environments and are indifferent to positive conditions. But what our research has shown repeatedly is that sensitive, susceptible children have more powerful, influential responses to boh negative, stressful circumstances and to positive, caring, and supportive conditions.
2. The second fundamental error we have typically made is the assumption that so-called resilient children are rare, isolated occurrences within a sea of childhood vulnerability.
vulnerability is really sensitivity, which carries with it a capacity for a remarkable reversal of fortune within positive, supportive environments.