Last night a reunion was held for an “Active Parenting Today” course the City of Santa Clarita is sponsoring. Along with five other moms I braved the first SCV rainstorm of the year to meet at our local City Hall. Susanna Campbell, the city employee that taught our class, had arranged for the reunion prompted by our requests. We were a “model” class, or so we thought.
Active Parenting Today was the subject of my column a few months back. One of my fellow classmates, Laurie Morgan, made it the subject of her recent column in Peachland’s PTA newsletter. A telephone call to City Hall would be all it would take to join the next class that’s due to start tomorrow night. My sincere hope is that just one more parent will call today and sign up so that our city has proof of what a great program they are offering.
There were many things we thought Susanna would “test” us on at our reunion: Were we keeping up with our letters or audio tapes of encouragement to our children, taking time for family enrichment activities, holding family meetings and building future courageous democratic citizens? I felt I needed time to re-read my textbook, or at least jot down a quick note to Sam applauding here efforts this week in writing her last name. But, between the rain that night, rushing through making Samantha’s dinner and giving her a bath, there simply wasn’t time.
So I was obviously a bit apprehensive that after just a few short months most of the skills I had learned were embarrassingly forgotten. Maybe Susanna was concerned that we all needed a reminder to encourage. That was why I assumed our “reunion” would be a refresher course in encouraging our children. But after all was said and done, I think she meant to encourage us as caring parents. And the rest would follow. Naturally I hoped.
Susanna’s flier gave us a date and time but also asked us to share family pictures, success stories and not-so-successful stories. The last thing she invited us to do was to “Get Support From Your Fellow Classmates”. She had enclosed a separate sheet of paper listing everyone’s first names and the simple instruction of completing one sentence, “One thing I like about you is…”
I couldn’t remember everyone’s names. I left my homework sheet undone. I was a complete failure. Luckily, for me, I wasn’t the only one lacking in this department. What I thought would slow us down succeeded in propelling us forward. Without much ado we quickly reacquainted ourselves as we shared family photographs.
Then we got the pleasantries completed by a quick floury of conversation over who had gained the most weight over the holidays, who was on Weight Watchers (Susanna was thoughtful enough to provide Weight Watcher bars as well as non-diet munchies and a flavored decaf coffee.), which gym everyone had just joined and who had seen any results yet. We weren’t warmed up yet to discuss results in parenting; only results with dieting. When no one came up the winner on that one we slid more comfortably into the subject we had come to discuss, how the program was working.
The “late” mom (as I had nicknamed her for being a few minutes late sometimes) had had a breakthrough with her two girls. The mom that laughs at whatever I say, was looking for a solution with her three-year-old wild gal and her six-year-old sweethearted boy’s arguments. Laurie had survived her son’s barmitzbah (editor please help w/spelling of that one if you can.) with flying colors and bountiful family pride. And Susanna had successfully gotten her daughter to pick up her own damp bath towels before the family dog had turned them into his bedding. Laurie’s friend, Robin I think, still worried about getting things done on our schedule instead of theirs. Encouraging each other came very easy and naturally.
This brought up a whole new discussion on how to control our tempers, words and actions when our children aren’t doing exactly what you want them to do when you want them to do it. “Late” mom admitted that it’s tough and that she had had a major blowout before the major breakthrough with her young teen. I said that I find myself repeating my requests before Samantha has a chance to respond and discouraging her efforts when I think she can do better.
We started to discuss more disturbing effects from discouraging our children. Most pointedly Columbine High School and all the other violence in schools that had followed. While we spoke, the humor now gone from our remarks, I remembered a column that ran in The Mighty Signal back in 1999. April 12, 1999 to be exact entitled “Everything Is A Matter of Perspective” By Carol Rock. (Look under www.the-signal.com, columnists, and blast from the past, Carol Rock.)
Carol Rock had an interview from some of the students after Columbine and interspersed them with quotes every parent is guilty of at one time or another. Here is an example: “If you were where you were supposed to be and doing what you were supposed to, this wouldn’t have happened.” And then immediately flowing was a phrase in Italics: “I thought it was a prank for morning announcements. But then when I saw how big the gun was, then I knew. I knew it had to be real.” Here was the blackest of black results of our discouragement of our own children. It wasn’t society, it wasn’t the children; it was what we had made of them when they were ours. We slowly drew silent.
Susanna left us with plans to reunite every six months, as long as we all were still motivated, to share success stories and not-so-successful-stories. But somehow, I think some of us would enjoy a more frequent counseling session to keep us closer on the right track, to be encouraging every day. You know, just to be on the SAFE side.