This past weekend I was in Washington, D.C., working hard for social action, working hard for Delta (my sorority). As I was in line waiting to check-in to my hotel, I noticed a nice-looking brotha and his ~5yo son get in line a few people behind me. There wasn’t anything particularly notable about these two to make them stand out. But the interaction that took place between them caused my heart to flutter…
The little boy (apparently) began to ever so gently and ever so quietly play with one of the rope dividers that were setup around the check-in line. He wasn’t really being “bad,” just doing something he probably shouldn’t. In fact, I didn’t even notice what he was doing until I heard his father say in a low voice, calmly but seriously, “Son, how much do you think those medal stands weigh?” Son: *stops moving and gives blank stare*. Dad: “Do you think they weigh more than you, or do you weigh more than them?” Kid: “I weigh more.” Dad: “OK, so if you weigh more than the stands, and you sit on that rope, don’t you think it’ll fall over and you’ll hurt yourself?” Kid: *nods* Dad: “Right. Now leave it alone and come back over here.”
All I could do was smile and chuckle to myself. And secretly wish this man was my husband. It was such a calm, level-headed call to critical thinking and responsibility, if you will. No yelling, no getting upset, no physical interaction. Just words. In a true discussion, that required participation from both sides. And this father sounded exactly like my father (and even my brother). The snapshot of this parenting moment is easily one that can be found in my childhood files. I rarely see this type of interaction between parents and their children–it’s usually antagonistic and loud. It was actually quite nostalgic for me. So much so, that later that evening I called my parents to tell them the story.
My father is notoriously known for what he did to that glove box1 his matter-of-fact, no-nonsense, logical way of parenting. Like the gentleman at the hotel, my father was never one to draw attention in public and get overly dramatic when his child was doing something she wasn’t supposed to do. My father talked to me like a grown person, not a baby. My father wanted me to use logic and common sense to make good choices.
Typically when I was caught making, or planning to make, a poor decision, my father gave me an “out”. He allowed me to weigh my actions with the consequences that would follow. Being ignorant or uninformed wasn’t an excuse. And it was always ALWAYS a teaching moment. If I tried to walk across the street before looking both ways, my father would require me to consider the laws of physics, and expect me to act accordingly.2 And yes, even at a young age I was aware of how physics would work against me. Being ignorant or uninformed, even at 3 or 4 years old, was never an excuse to make a bad choice.
Seeing that father and son interact at the hotel this weekend took me back in time for a moment. And in that instant, I was a little girl again, peering up at my dad, trying to absorb bits and pieces of his infinite wisdom and sensibleness, and eager to show him that I could make good decisions. And hopefully to date I have.
What say you? Do you have any “father (or parent) knows best” memories? Does/did your parent know best? Has there ever been a time when you witnessed a parent and their child(ren) and it reminded you of your childhood?
Smiling and reflecting,
1 If you didn’t catch the story on twitter over the Christmas holiday, my dad did this to his glove box. He decided to break into (read: savagely assault) said glove box when he couldn’t open it with his key. Apparently whatever he needed, he needed IMMEDIATELY. Did he bother to ask for help? No. And his way to fix it? Duct tape. S.M.H.
2 Even to this day, my dad reminds me that force equals mass times acceleration or other such equations to help me identify the properties of mass.