For the past several months, I’ve worked at an after school care program, and as an obsessively observant people watcher, I’ve gathered a great deal. Below are the important things I’d like to share with the parents of young children.
To the mom who’s always late:
You rush in everyday, completely flustered, and apologize for being all of a few minutes late; you always says you’re sorry, and I can tell you mean it. The thing is, you don’t have to be. You’re children are wonderful; they’re kind, loving, genuine and open. They’re respectful, smart, and funny; I am more than happy to sit an extra eight minutes with them most afternoons because it is so incredibly obvious that you’re doing things right. I don’t know where you work, or what time you get off, but I know you’d be there sooner were it possible; I really don’t mind, so please don’t rush. Like I said, it’s obvious you’re taking this parenting thing seriously; kids don’t turn out like yours otherwise, and for that reason alone your safety is far more important than anything I could do with that extra six minutes on a Tuesday night. You’re doing a good job, so stop being sorry for something out of your control.
To the mom who’s always present:
I know your ex doesn’t pick up the kids, and I know your job is demanding, so it constantly amazes me when you stand amid the other children on the playground to watch your child cross the monkey bars or do whatever trick she learned that day. I know your to do list is miles long, and yet you always take the time to make sure your son behaved that day. You are patient and kind, and I think you are a rockstar. I admire you in more ways than I can count; you are the sort of strong, independent woman that I aspire to be. I also love your kids. So, when I piggyback your kid to the car to speed things along, or hold onto your daughter’s jacket so it doesn’t get lost in a sea of lunch boxes and backpacks, it’s not because I think you’re inadequate or incapable in the least, it’s not because I think you can’t handle a lost jacket, or a child who won’t get off the swings, it’s because I know you, more than most, will handle it with the utmost grace, patience, and kindness possible to muster, but I just don’t want you to always have to. I know you’re always present in your children’s lives, you never fail to provide them with the love and stability so important during childhood, and that you are always there for these kids that I adore makes me happy to be there for you, if only in the little ways I can. Keeping being amazing; I’ll keep admiring you.
To the mom who doesn’t smile:
Do you know how amazing your kids are? Do you know how sweet they each are, all in unique ways? I know you are incredibly tired and stressed; I know that life is hectic and your job is exhausting, but do you know how much your harsh exterior and tone are hurting your kids? I understand we all have bad days, but please, for the sake of your little ones, find a way to minimize that number, find a way to have less bad days. When I see your sweet children, I can’t help but smile, and I see the way that positive reinforcement benefits them; I cannot fathom how much more beneficial it would be for your children to get that reinforcement from you. Your children are young, but they still pick up on so much; I hear your cutting tone escape their own mouths from time to time. I used to wonder how such a young child could already be so hard to the world, but now I know that it’s from you. I know you love your kids, and I know you’re intentionally hurting them, but just being excited to see them goes an incredibly long way.
To the grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, and others who sometimes do the picking up:
Thank you. This is not your direct responsibility, but you are here anyway. You probably receive a great deal of thanks from the parents of the child you are picking up, but even so, I want to thank you again. I firmly believe that it really does take a village to raise a child; I firmly believe that no matter how many people a child has in his or her life providing love and support, there is always room for another. Thank you for picking up where parents fall short, not because they’re bad parents, but because no one can do everything. You presence shows you care, and we can always use more people who care in the lives to today’s children.
Please note, none of these are written directly about any one person; for the sake of writing, I often find it easier to combine characteristics of multiple people in order to get my point across. I would also never feel comfortable writing directly about one person in such a public forum. I wanted to make that known, so that I could also express that although these all say “to the mom…” I’ve witnessed many dads who fall into these categories as well.