29 January 2013

Parental Ponderings

Once upon a time, there was a young girl. She was a brand new kindergartner, and just getting the hang of public school. She rode the bus to and from her elementary. The usual driver was a nice man named Tom. One day Tom had another driver there in his place, named Mary. The young girl innocently put her foot out in the aisle, and was instantly reprimanded loudly and roughly by the substitute driver. Stunned and embarrassed she shrank to the corner of her seat while hot tears splashed down her cheeks.
A few years later, Tom retired and Mary became the new permanent driver of that bus route. The little girl rode the bus with her older sister and a couple of neighbor friends. None of them were pleased with the new bus arrangements. Mary had earned the reputation of being strict and mean, and the little girl's older sister remembered the incident when Mary had made her little sister cry. It didn't take too long before these children became fed up with the anger issues and unreasonableness of their driver.
They began to break her rules on purpose, just to aggravate her. Eventually the girls pushed Mary too far and earned the issue of pink slips, which were disciplinary warnings. When issued multiple times it would have lost the girls their right to ride the bus. They were not ashamed - in fact, when issued the slips they waved them triumphantly to the other riders on the bus and there may or may not have been cheering.
After the bus departed they met their mother and showed her their slips. There are mothers these days who would have backed up their children and sought to have the driver reprimanded for her overly strict rules and angry yelling at the children. Not this mother. This mother did not seek to rescue her daughters - she sought to teach them.
Acknowledging their partially justified feelings toward the bus driver, she pointed out to her daughters just how frustrating it must be for the driver to be unable to keep control of the children on the bus. She also pointed out that she must be unhappy to treat children with so much harshness. Their mother wisely suggested that they take another approach with Mary. She asked them to try an experiment: they were to greet Mary kindly when they were picked up in the morning, and thank her for the ride when they were dropped off in the afternoon. They loved and trusted their mother, and committed to try it.
Mary certainly must have been suspicious of their motives when the new behavior began, but over time the experiment had the desired effects. Mary became kinder, and the bus rides became more pleasant for all. It could be said that she had been killed with kindness.
You may have already guessed that I was the little girl in this story. My memory is poor, so it may not be completely accurate but this is how it stands in my memory; my sister April would need to verify some of the details. The advice my mom gave us, and the way it played out is accurate, though. I was reflecting on it this morning. How wise it was of my mom to give us tools to address the situation ourselves, rather than seeking to protect us from unfair treatment! The fact is, mothers cannot and will not always be their to protect their children, so the best thing mothers can do is give their children skills to solve their own problems - and the younger, the better. I imagine both my sister and I have been able to adapt the principles from this situation to diffuse tension and create peace in later conflicts. I hope we can all be wise enough to teach our children to deal with conflict well, as my mom did, rather than cripple them by shielding them from it.


  1. How very wise. I have much to learn in the department. Thanks for sharing.

  2. You have a much better memory than I do! Even after reading your story, while it did bring up some memories, they feel vague. I could never have come up with the details you did. Definitely a good lesson to take from the experience :)

  3. I love this story, your mother is an inspiration. The world needs more people like this.

  4. I want to be just like your Mom when I "grow up!" She's a great lady. What a good story!


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