Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself." That is the vein in which I approach an observation we made while shopping for school supplies this morning. So, please understand I'm not meaning to be judgmental, but rather applying my response to the situation to be more aware of my own behavior.
While in Target this morning, Kristina and I were in the school supply area, as we have to do this time of year. We were not alone. Other parents, guardians and grand-parents were there also. However, one particular couple stood out to us. The incident reminded me of something that would be uploaded to PeopleAtWalmart.com -- of course we weren't at that establishment, so there goes my chance for a viral video.
It was not an outrageous or socially awkward wardrobe that drew our attention. Yet, the argument that ensued was awkward.
Keep in mind, their six-to-seven year old son was with them while this occurred. The woman kept reading the school supply list and openly mocking the stupidity of the things and quantity of them on it. She also sharply explained when taking them to school she would partition these items off so that only her child would have access to the items she purchased. "No other kid is going to use the tissues I buy," the mother fumed.
The dad (or possibly step-dad) chimed in he didn't believe it would work that way or be that easy. He went on to expound how things worked in his previous experiences. This did not go over well with the woman, whose voice got louder as she ranted how she would not be told to follow stupid rules by the school.
Now, my thoughts were not about arguing in public or in front of their child. No, that's not proper, but even the best of couples have those moments.
No, the first impression was about the content of the bickering and how their parent-teacher relationship was likely to begin. This parent absolutely not going to follow rules she did not like. Now, I'm the last person to say just go along with whatever the school demands, but I believe it is important to pick the battles about things that are detrimental, invasive or other issues of a serious nature. Sharing tissues or the types of items on a school supply list is not what I would consider a worthwhile fight.
In addition to labeling herself a difficult and troublesome person, she has broadcast to her child that one only has to submit to authority when things are in agreement. I have to wonder what happens when her son doesn't want to do his homework...especially if he thinks it is stupid. Further, what if mom thinks it's stupid.
My mother taught secondary school for more than thirty years. My sister is still teaching. I know that most teachers try to be professionals and give every child equal opportunities and treatment, despite the problems his or her parents might create. However, I also know teachers are human and are subconsciously influenced by difficult (and helpful) people. Between that and the camouflaged lessons his parents are likely to continue sending, I mourn for this child's future.
Much of what I am saying equates to the adage that one catches more flies with honey than vinegar. But in a larger sense, I need to guard against the subtle messages I send and remember that my modeled behavior is far more significant than my words of instruction.