"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
July 30, 2013
Do Unto Other Parents
by Melissa Howell

I’ll blame it on summer.

After all, we spend a considerably higher percentage of time at places like the pool and the park than we do during the school year, places that can be a breeding ground for many things, including the worst kinds of behavior.

And it’s not just moms. Sometimes it’s the kids, too.

One incident went down like this.

I was at my son’s baseball game, at a large ballpark complex with a fantastic playground where many siblings and other ballpark guests occupy their time; here a different type of game plays out, and sometimes produces equal amounts of swings and misses, strikes and steals.

I was innocently watching my son’s game, when I overheard a mother berating the older brother of a girl playing at the park. And she wasn’t being discreet. Not even remotely. She was upset because she thought the younger sister had hit her son.

Shortly after I overheard this incident and had moved on from it, I walked over to check on my kids at the playground when this same mother approached me and started yelling at me because she thought my daughter hit her son. This mom had her glove off and was looking for a fight, so to speak.

When one is attacked, verbally or otherwise, it can be really difficult to stay calm and rational. I know it can be for me. But somehow I managed to do so.

I calmly explained that I had also overheard her yelling at someone else about hitting her son, and perhaps no one knows exactly what went down, but that I would talk to my kids and keep and eye on them, although I already had been and didn’t witness anything to speak of.

Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to want to play nice and made it very uncomfortable for my children and me for the rest of the evening, patrolling the playground, ready to pounce at the slightest provocation. My children steered clear. Better safe than sorry, no?

My friend experienced a similar incident at the pool, when a mother confronted my friend about her son calling her daughter “chubby.”

My friend felt horrible and immediately made her 7-year-old apologize, explaining why we never say such a thing to anyone. But the apology didn’t seem to suffice. After a several minutes spent apologizing and trying to make it up to this girl and her mother, the girl’s mother didn’t seem satisfied.

“I don’t know what else she wanted from me!” my friend recounted to me in exasperation.

In such a situation, we have two opportunities:

  1. To put on our objective glasses. Let’s not assume that our children are never involved in name calling or other less-than-ideal playground or other group-setting etiquette. We can teach them kindness, good manners, how to make friends and treat others with respect, but sometimes — especially in large groups of children — they choose a lesser path.

    Usually there are two sides to every story. We can’t fall into the trap of “but my child never…, because never is a tricky word. Learning appropriate social behaviors and interactions in an ongoing lesson for kids; heck, there are plenty of adults out there who clearly have not completed the course.

    We teach our children to love one another, yet on the other hand we want them to stand up for themselves and not be treated poorly. Therein is the rub.

  2. To be an example of kindness and forgiveness. I am not on a mission to skewer these two mothers, as we never know what is going on in people’s lives that causes them to act in certain manners. But there seemed to be an overall air of unwillingness to forgive and forget in these situations.

    Nowhere does the rule about our children “doing the things we do, not the things we say” apply more soundly than in how we forgive others.

Throughout our lives and our children’s lives, there will be times we throw out offenses, and times we catch them. If we can not only teach our children to say “I’m sorry,” when called for, and when to say “I forgive you,” when that is the necessary phrase, but as parents set the example for it ourselves, we have a far greater chance of raising socially appropriate and well-adjusted children.

And if we fail to set these appropriate boundaries in our own lives, I’ll no longer blame it on summer.

I’ll blame it on the parents.

Let’s all strive to play on the same parenting team and hit kindness and forgiveness out of the ballpark.


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About Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.

Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel (6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).

In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of organizations.

Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader

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