By Cindi Gibbs-Wilborn, Head of School
This weekend, I was going through old boxes and landed on some parenting articles I had written years ago for caregivers of young children. As I read a particular piece once again, I began to think that uncovering this article at this time in my life was, most likely, divine intervention. As a parent, wife, professional, caregiver, friend, and neighbor who is navigating a pandemic, I don’t always get it right. This article (copied below) served as a reset button for me when I needed it most and I hope that it may be of use to you or someone that you love.
Last weekend, my son and I were involved in an automobile collision, and I have spent a great deal of time this week in the healing process, both mentally and physically. Though neither of us had visible injuries, the shock, pain, and stress which inevitably come from accidents such as this one can leave lasting marks. One, in particular, left quite an impact.
The accident occurred on a Sunday afternoon near a local park and shopping center. As a result of the 4-car collision, traffic around the shopping center backed up for close to an hour while emergency responders arrived to assess the scene. One of the drivers involved required ambulance assistance. While they were placing him on a stretcher, I noticed a father and his son stalled several feet away from the entrance to the park. The son was dressed in athletic gear, apparently on his way to practice at a nearby field. Over time, I noticed the father become agitated with the police officers for holding up traffic, and he began complaining about the situation. Gradually, his complaints grew more vocal, hurling insults at those patiently managing the scene. Someone on site then advised the father to calm down, reminding him that people were hurt, and the first responders needed time to do their careful work. With his young son sitting beside him in the car, the father then yelled back at the man. He grew more impatient, vented some more, and then told his son to just get out of the car and walk over to the fields, where he would meet him as soon as the traffic moved.
Trust me, I understand this father’s frustration. We all go there from time to time. As parents, we are charged with advocating for our most precious commodities—our children. We need to teach them what it means to be reliable group members, punctual teammates, and responsible citizens, among a litany of other roles. This dad totally missed the point. I would guess that most of us have witnessed this “Mama or Papa Bear rage” from time to time at soccer fields, athletic tryouts, musical competitions, school conferences, or academic events. Parents who only want the very best for their child redefine the rules and turn into a less than favorable parent role model. The manner in which this father reached his point of frustration in the presence of his child was shocking to many, but I am certain no one was more shaken and embarrassed than his son.
We always need to remind ourselves that our children are watching us constantly for signals and cues and will most likely take those lessons with them into adulthood, when they become responsible citizens, parents, colleagues, peers, and spouses. Serving as positive role models now, especially during times of stress, will benefit your child in the workplace when there is a future disagreement with a co-worker or supervisor. Likewise, it will come in very handy when they are working to raise their own children to become capable citizens, and it will teach them some of the most valuable qualities ever learned: resilience, empathy, patience, and kindness. I believe, as parents, we all need these reminders from time to time.
A Well-Meaning Mama Bear