I am not an excellent parent, overall.
I am, at my best, a very good parent. Above average, mostly. I think my kids would agree.
But sometimes, I see or hear or read something that makes me realize how incredibly short I fall of the mark. This week I watched a video of Fred Rogers speaking to the U.S. Senate regarding funding for PBS. This was in 1969. It is six minutes of the most compassionate, loving, and impassioned speech I have ever.
Somewhere around eighty percent of our television viewing in this house is of PBS programs. We are not freaks who don't like cable, we are cheap. But over time, we've found that in addition to being free, it's really good stuff. If I turn on Mister Rogers, my kids are quiet and focused and interested. It is not his warm voice or funny sweaters or gentleness of movement. It is not his quiet or his slowness or the fact that he never, ever, has to yell and shout and jump and sing and holler to get a child's attention.
They love him for all of those reasons, but they listen to him because he respects them.
(This is the point where you might roll your eyes and think, hoo boy! She's one of them. I'm not, probably. Depending on who you mean by them.)
There is something hugely powerful about looking at a child and saying, without patronizing, you are a valuable and worthy human being; you are wonderfully made and I love you just the way you are. Saying it, and meaning it, and treating that child with the respect we should give every person on earth. But no one, no one more than the very people we want to continue everything that we st rive and hope and work for today.
There was a recent trend of parents posting 'discipline' videos on the internet to teach their kids a lesson. I have been embarrassed, shamed and humiliated as an adult and a child, and there is no lesson in it. There are few things as cruel as debasing another human being. It is a universally accepted rule - do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. You are your brother's keeper.
Yet somehow we've decided that this doesn't apply to our children.
I am a yeller. I hate to admit it, and every Sunday I pray to my God that I can be calmer, more patient. But, I yell. I get irritated and agitated and I snip and snipe. I perpetrate subtle cruelties against the people I love most in the world. Because I am a human being, and I try my best and often fail.
Just like you.
Just like them.
I watched Fred Rogers talk for six minutes and tell me everything I need to know to be a good parent, and person. It is so insanely simply, yet it confounds even the wisest among us. We fight wars big and small, we throw insults and call names and spew hatred in the name of our Creator. We yell, a lot. And we tell our children in our words and our actions that we don't value them.
Mister Rogers is sitting us down and in the calmest way telling us to recognize.
I am not an excellent parent. But maybe I can, with help and patience and respect and PBS, do a pretty good job of being a wonderful mother.
2 weeks ago