Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Parent's Rude Outburst sets Bad Example

(this article originally appeared in the 3/8/11 edition of The Monmouth Daily Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting Series)

Being a parent is very time consuming.

It's so much more than babysitting. Parents supervise homework, provide nutritious meals, keep their kids healthy and safe, teach values like honesty, schedule appointments, run their kids all over town without complaining and attend oodles of extracurricular activities. (Sometimes I think I go to work just to get a break from it all!)

Your calendar no doubt, looks a lot like mine. Our schedule is crammed full and I have to confess... I hate it. I love parenting but I don't love sitting on bleachers. I don't like being gone all day and all night. I don't enjoy my life being dictated by a calendar full of ball games, piano practice, scholastic bees, parent meetings, music contests and play dates.
But I do it.
I go and do all the extra stuff when I don't want to. I go and I don't complain. I go and I smile and I support my kids because that is what parents do.

I recognize not all parents feel this way. You might like hanging out in gymnasiums. Maybe you love eating dinner from a concession stand. It's possible, unlikely, but quite possible you're comfortable sitting there on your portable bleacher cushion (I really gotta get me one of those). But I'm not. I've got five kids and even if each child only did one extra thing a week that's one extra thing every night!!

I'm well aware, I brought this upon myself. It is the genetics of having a large family. We have a heck of a lot fun (because more is merrier) but we also generate more work than the average family. So it is during overbooked weeks, like this last one in particular, that all the extracurricular activities feel more like a burden than anything else.

Nonetheless I found myself settling in at a parent meeting last Thursday. While I sat down and mentally prepared to give the presenter my attention I couln't have expected what happened next. After the speaker made her introductions she began to ask if anyone in the room would like Spanish translation when a man sitting next to me shouts, "This is America! We speak English here!"

Wait! (insert screeching noise) What?!

For a nanosecond you could hear a pin drop as the disruption hovered in the room like a storm cloud. No one responded to the outburst and maybe it was for the best. I suspect a firestorm could have erupted sidetracking the entire purpose of the meeting. Yet I looked around expecting John QuioĊ„ones of ABC Primetime:What Would You Do?  to appear and announce we were all on hidden cameras.

The meeting continued but I remained quite distracted. Offering translation was a common courtesy. Regardless of your opinion of our non English speaking residents, the disruption was insolent.

I'm not trying to spark a freedom of speech argument. Cleary an individual has the right to speak. Neither do I want get embattled in a discussion on the native language of our country. Obviously we speak English. The undisputable fact is that this was a parent meeting in Monmouth, a community whose census data reports the Hispanic population is on the rise by almost 11 percentage points.

So why is this event worth mentioning today? Because I believe this is a good community and I don't want the rude behavior of a few to be the only audible voice.

I think despite our personal opinions about our differences we should lay aside harmful rhetoric. How can we ever propel our community into a healthy and loving place to live if only the negative voices speak up? Promoting our own agenda is not noble when it alienates and disrespects another human being. Look around! This is a community whose landscape indicates we are living with a wide variety of folks with varying backgrounds and experiences.

Despite my selfish, tongue-in-cheek, jokes about all the extracurricular activities, it is those same events that make Monmouth such a great place to raise a family. I hope that the loudest voices are the ones who encourage and point us in a direction of respect for our all our neighbors.  This may not be easy an easy task but I believe our efforts to build a good community will be worth the struggle. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

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