I was sitting in my car when it happened. It was pouring rain, and the vehicle next to me had a male in the passenger seat, he was smoking a cigarette. The mother and son come out of the store. The boy immediately jumped out of the cart and ran into the parking lot with his arms flying in the air. I had a moment of sympathy for the mother. I also thought “why is this boy misbehaving, doesn’t he know not to run into parking lots?” The mother screamed for him to return, her face red with anger. Her eyes watery and her hair a mess. Her pants and shirt were torn and tattered; she looked as if her day was falling apart. She chased after the child, scooped him up violently and carried him flailing to the car. She then proceeded to throw him into the back seat. I remember how the car shook up and down as his body hit the seat and the mother jumped in on top of him. Her hands and fists bearing down on him with such fury, my stomach turned, and I felt as if I was about to pass out. I hesitated. I wanted nothing more than to get out of the car and stop the confrontation. I was able to resist this impulse, and I remained in the car. My thoughts were with the child but also at that moment with my own. I am a mother of 3. I weighed my options quickly yet in what felt like a lifetime of thoughts.
Do I get out and face two aggressive parents?
Do I sit here and watch and pray that God or the angels intervene?
I decided to do something, but something that would not risk my life. After taking note of the license plate number, I honked my horn. Frightening the mother, she retreated, shoved the kid in his car seat and didn’t look up at me once as she climbed into the driver’s seat. I then contacted the local sheriff’s office and reported the incident and the license plate number. I felt as if I had just witnessed an assault. A fist fight between an adult and a child. A child who was not able to defend himself, with a father more interested in chain smoking than protecting his offspring. I had, I had witnessed exactly that. I was validated by the authorities and thanked for reporting the incident.
This event, of course, had me thinking all day. What lesson did that mother teach her son other than pain and fear? What the heck was the father doing? He just sat there. He didn’t get out to help unload the groceries; he didn’t intervene when the mother was harming the child. He just sat there. Silent, numb, and smoking. I was in shock. I’m not naïve. I know these incidents happen every day, all over the world. However, I have a big heart, and I am often very moved by such events.
I don’t want to start a debate about discipline and the right or wrong ways to do so. I would never spank or harm my children. I also do not choose to verbally abuse or coerce my children into doing what I want them to do. I opted to parent with tolerance, peace, and unconditional love. I am no child or parenting expert so who am I to tell anyone what is right or wrong?
The saying “children do what they see, not what they are told to do” was on repeat in my mind like a broken record. I was irritated. I couldn’t shake it. I then went on to think about this quote and how incredibly accurate it is. You can tell a child over and over again that something is wrong, harmful, indecent, dangerous but if they consistently see you doing it, they will think it is ok. As an example, I see parents spank their kids for hitting another kid. Fire does not put out a fire.
This incident was terrible but what it taught me was that our children are going to do what we do. They are conditioned at a young age to follow in our footsteps. Isn’t it our responsibility to help them walk the right path? When it comes to coping with emotions, making healthy choices, being kind to their peers and doing their best it is our responsibility to show them a good example. As society changes, so must our actions. When we know better, we should do better and maybe this mother didn’t know any better. I have made countless mistakes, which I have learned from and corrected my behavior. I think it’s when we do not alter our behavior even when we know it is wrong that we jeopardize our children’s ability to learn and do better as well. We can even make our children part of this. We can admit that we messed up and explain what we will do next time. We can apologize to our children for yelling, for spanking (hopefully it doesn’t come to this), and for setting bad examples. We can admit to our kids that we once made poor choices in regards to our health, but now that we know better we will not be doing that anymore. I will pray every day for that boy in the parking lot. I will also pray for his parents. I guess I wasn’t as judgmental as I thought. I was a concerned citizen watching out for my fellow human.
So what can you start doing today to keep you from freaking out in the future?
- Act like a child. Yes! Play with them. Release your inner child and join them in their games and imaginative play! It can be so refreshing and exactly the perspective you need during stressful times.
- Remember that you are human. Don’t judge yourself. Your going to make mistakes as a parent and being able to cope with the disappointment is key to success. Rather than dwell on the fact that you made a mistake, say you are sorry, agree to not make the same mistake twice and communicate this with your kids. There is a lesson in this, and it is called humility. So be humble, it will teach your child that you are not perfect and they shouldn’t strive to be either.
- Live in the moment. I know mindfulness may sound cliche but joining this movement is worth it! Focusing less on tomorrow and more on right now will help reduce stress and anxiety.
- Downtime. We have had a lot of this in our house lately because we needed it. Our Culture tends to stay on the busy side. We pack our days full of activities, play dates, appointments, and “have to’s”. What if we allowed ourselves some down time to just simply enjoy each other? Take a day or two and change it from “have to do’s” to “want to do’s”. If all you want to do is lay in bed and binge watch TV, then do that. If all you want to do is Eat, play, and love, then do that!
- Connect with your friends and lover. Sometimes, as parents, we can get so caught up in our children’s lives, the day to day activities and to do lists that we lose the connection with our partner or our close friends and family. These relationships are important to our overall health. They are what we are beside mothers. We are friends, girlfriends, wives, sisters, and daughters. Relationships and human connection are what keep us from isolating ourselves during stressful times. These relationships literally keep us sane. Nurture them like you nurture the relationship with your children and trust me, they will both grow!
- Adopt a new practice: Ho’O’pono’pono is an ancient Hawaiian prayer of forgiveness. It is easy to learn and you can be quickly implemented! You can apply it to nearly every angle of your life including your health and relationships (and yes, even your relationship with food!). It is based on the following phrases which when used together are believed to help you self-heal.
- “I am sorry.” “Please forgive me.” “Thank You.” “I love you”
Read more about Ho’O’pono’pono by Clicking HERE.
Please remember that you are not alone. We are walking this path together, so reach out before you freak out.
Endless love and gratitude,