Several of us parents attempted to hustle and gently urge our children to walk a bit faster into the school. We were all running late for Meet the Teacher Night. Everyone else was assembled in the cafeteria listening to the principal’s welcome speech while the rest of us hurried across the parking lot to get inside. In spite of running late, my brisk pace slowed to a shuffle. I just heard a mother call her child “retarded”—for making a mistake.
Personally, that term offends me greatly. I have mulled this incidence over in my brain for the last three weeks, not knowing what to do with it. Should I elaborate on this topic—about how my chest stung as if she called me that name in public? Should I rant on about my confusion as to why an adult would choose that name to call her child? Should I forget about it?
Then, after reading reactions to another mother’s viral blog post, my response came into focus. Tuesday night as I lay awake in bed thinking about FYI (if you’re a teenage girl) by Mrs. Hall, I realized that we should be lifting up these children—not posting snarky comments about teenage selfies or being the source of public name-calling.
Many parents have slip-ups. Many parents do or say something that they don’t mean and later regret. We all make mistakes. I am no exception to parent-fails. I make mistakes.
On Wednesday morning I got angry with Whitney for not eating her breakfast. Again, we were running late for school when she decided to flat-out refuse to eat. I was upset because she often refuses to eat and we were already running late. And I couldn't send her off to school on an empty stomach. So, I threatened a time-out which forced her to eat. She eventually ate. She got to school on time.
When I picked her up later that day, she practically collapsed in my arms—she had a mild bout of stomach flu, a fever and sore throat. I can’t help feeling regret for my parent-fail. If I had slowed my pace to a shuffle, perhaps I would have clued in to her sickness, and knowing the reason for protesting breakfast, I wouldn’t have gotten upset.
With that said, I have learned that it’s my job to guide my daughters with love. When I make mistakes I am quick to apologize and explain what I did or said was wrong. Even though I try to lead by example, I am an imperfect human. I royally mess-up sometimes. But the point to make is that we must recognize when we make mistakes and rectify them. We must lift our children up rather than put them down. We must teach them social-media tact rather than social-media tactlessness.
It must also be noted that people have different life experiences that lend to different perspectives and responses to the world. While I took offense to the woman calling her young son “retarded” that warm August afternoon, I realize that term may not have been her mistake. Much like Mrs. Hall originally thought it appropriate to post half naked pictures of her sons on a post talking about keeping those sons from looking at racy teenage girl photos, that other mother at Whitney’s school may not find that term derogatory and used it because its commonplace in her home. To that, my response is staying open.
I choose to open my heart and welcome different people. I choose not to get angry or defame others because their view of the world is different than mine. I then choose to teach my children how to respond. If, someday, someone in my daughter’s class calls her “retarded” (because he is called that at home), it is my deep hope that she is brave enough to stand up and say, “No I’m not, and please don’t call me names.” I feed her self confidence. After all, what you feed grows, and what you starve dies.
Each night as I tuck my daughter into bed I ask her what the three things are that she only ever needs to be in the world. She responds, “Kind, Brave and a Hard Worker.” We do this routine each night. That way when she's older, hopefully she will decide that she doesn’t need to be sexy to gain popularity. She doesn’t need to name-call to show others that she is a leader. She doesn’t need to showcase her body to get boys’ attention.
This is how I lift up my child.