This week I had the privilege of going to the Universal and Disney Parks; they are all amazing places designed with wonderful creativity and impressive craftsmanship. Of course, what really stood out to me, however, was seeing the contrast between good and bad parents. I know not being a parent myself I need to be careful not to be too harsh in my judgements, but some things are blatantly bad; they’re so bad that someone as naive as me can see they’re bad. One of the worst – and funny – things I kept seeing were parents pushing a large child in a stroller. When I say “large” I mean LARGE like you took a regular child and inflated him up like a balloon, but instead of helium you used lard, jiggly-wiggly lard. Maybe these kids were younger than they looked, but they would be crammed into a stroller and having to duck their heads because they were too tall for it let alone too inflated. If your child is too tall to fit in the stroller that’s a sign that he or she should be walking. If your child is so fat that he or she has to have a double stroller to not fall out that’s a sign that he or she should be walking… and eating less junk. Walking around a park all day is tiring, but if you don’t have a medical reason get off your lazy tush and walk. Walking is good for you, especially if you’re so big your earlobes look like they have double chins… yes, I saw this on a few people, ears with double chins. What’s even scarier is some of these baby “elephants” had parents pushing them in their strollers who were skinny, so genetically the kids shouldn’t be that big. Sure pushing the child is great exercise for the parent, but if you love your child you will encourage him or her to be active and healthy. Healthy isn’t sitting in a stroller and being handed candy to eat so you won’t complain. Parents need to love their children enough to make them walk; they need to let their kids struggle and experience discomfort. Good parents don’t save their children from every trial life has to offer; they are simply there to encourage and support them. A good parent isn’t a “helicopter parent” (a term from Boston Legal) who constantly hovers over their children ready to pounce on anyone or anything that could be a threat. Good parents let their children explore and discover age appropriate things, and not things like bum rash from sitting too long in a stroller.
Another group of bad parents I saw were the ones who put their interests before their children’s. For instance, the park had a surprisingly large amount of babies with one who didn’t look more than a month old. This was the hottest weather I’ve ever experienced; the heatstroke I suffered is the evidence o f that. Why would you bring a baby to the park, especially in such extreme heat? Babies can’t get anything good out of being there. If you crave being at Disney, hire a babysitter for the day. Some parents of toddlers weren’t much better because they’d have their small children out at 1 and 2 in the morning. Let your kids sleep. Don’t put your desire for fun ahead of your children’s wellbeing.
Fortunately, my last night there I was shown what a truly loving parent looks like. On the shuttle back to the hotel there was a mom who was holding her son in her arms. I was eavesdropping on the conversation because what else am I going to do? Mind my own business? I don’t think so. The mom must have been exhausted because she had been at the park all day, but she pushed herself to speak with a loving tone to her son who was borderline grouchy. She could’ve ignored him or scolded him like I would’ve wanted to do, especially since exhaustion brings out short fuses. Instead, she would ask him questions about his favourite things at the park and he slowly became calmer. She put aside her own feelings in order to help her child feel better. She was so loving she pushed herself to have the gentleness and self-control that melts bad moods. That was a true display of love. That’s what’s missing with many parents today and even in many marriages.
This week may you rethink what it means to be a good parent and leader.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people