When you are a speaker and you say something that halts the conversation in the room, arms cross chests and every single eye in the room is on you, it’s official “you have stepped in it”.
Purpose of Play
Last week I had the pleasure of facilitating a full day workshop for childcare providers. The topic “Purpose of Play” lends itself to a whole host of fun discussions, particularly when the host location is a children’s museum.
Fast forward to the afternoon discussion of choice by the providers “communicating with parents”. Four hours into this workshop and we are now quite familiar with each other and I found the teachers’ wanting to vent on how they are treated by parents (not all parents of course, but enough).
Having worked in education myself from “cradle to college” I tiptoed around their conversations and outbursts but unfortunately things were beginning to deteriorate. I decided to take a risk and announced what I truly believe, “there are no bad parents”. You could hear a pin drop. I quickly flipped through my now 10-year-old presentation to get to this slide (I padded my workshop with some extra Powerpoints because it is very hard to judge 6 hours of presentation time!)
Finally sound, they nodded and laughed in agreement, but then, I hit them with this slide.
I now had their undivided attention and they were waiting, even the loudest in the room hung on my next words. So, I took a deep breath and let them have it, just kidding, I told them what I really think, no back-up, no statistics to defend or refute, just me and all I have experienced with parents and as a parent over the last few decades.
“The “bad parents” you work with that are the most difficult, irresponsible and seemingly uncaring of their own children are not. They are many things: unhappy, insecure, overwhelmed, angry, and when they are lashing out at you, accusing you, blaming you, criticizing you, it is not because they are bad parents. They may not know how to parent, they may not have planned to be parents, they may not even be capable of choices that put the child first, but they are parents and I have yet to meet a bad parent.”
Do You Remember the Moment?
To better illustrate my point, I asked, the parents in the room, do you remember the moment? Whether you are the biological, grand, step, foster, adoptive or are otherwise caring for a child, do you remember the moment you became a parent? I shared my moment with them.
“My oldest child was born with the umbilical cord triple wrapped around her neck and she was immediately “tossed” to the NICU team that had arrived in my delivery room. A scary beginning no doubt but a very happy result, she is fine.
The day after she was born I went to the nursery to look for her and I did not see her bassinet with the other babies. As I scanned the room, I found her being held, naked, by a doctor with his arms outstretched obviously observing something about my child. My daughter however was screaming and if I could have, I would have smashed through that viewing glass and ripped her out of the doctor’s arms. My urge to protect her was visceral. Later I would reflect on that moment and realize that it was my moment, the miracle, the completely irrational and all-encompassing love of another human being, I was a parent.”
When we judge, and I know we do, remember every “parent” is some child’s miracle. We certainly may not like the adult, their actions, their decisions, their erroneous thoughts, their inability to help themselves, please remember that despite all of that, this parent is that child’s miracle.
For the teacher’s the work involves modeling, instructing, listening, and staying strong for what they know is in the best interest of the child.
For the rest of us, we see parents struggle every day, whether it is in the grocery store or on-line via nasty social media comments.
We don’t have to judge, we can help in that miracle.