As I met with parents during conferences today, I thought about the fact that you can't be kind enough--kindness truly does move mountains.
I thought back to the many times I was challenged during my parenting years, and the fact that most of that challenge was born out of worry, frustration, lack of resources, and being overwhelmed.
Once when my first child was ill, the day care provider met me with a litany of worrisome and what I felt was incriminating remarks. As a new mother, I was so distraught thinking that I wasn't doing well by my child. I brought him to the doctor, and he cried and cried. The doctor made me wait and wait. I was beside myself, left the doctor's office and drove to the emergency room. The emergency room would not see me and told me to return to the doctor. By this time, at about six at night after a long day at school, I was very upset. I returned to the doctor and my son received the needed care. It was a long, long day, and I wasn't the kindest person to all the people I met that day. In hindsight, the truth was that my son had a challenging medical issue that no one knew exactly how to deal with. His treatment included multiple doctor's visits, a few operations, and care from multiple doctors. Finally we went to highly regarded specialists when he was older and the problem was solved. In hindsight, it would have been worth the time to take a number of days off to research the issue deeply when he was young, but perhaps the information to serve him well was not available. I don't know.
Another time, I worked for hours with my son on a school assignment. With my first son, I was doing everything I could to support his best effort and learning. The teacher reacted poorly to his performance. I didn't understand her remarks. I researched the issue and disagreed. We never reached any agreement, and my son was caught in the middle. In hindsight, the whole debate wasn't worth it. The truth was that it was a small assignment with little long lasting value. I should have let it go.
Another time, I got very upset when my oldest son was asked to perform a task I felt was inappropriate. I challenged the situation and was met with substantial pushback. I held my ground and never looked back. I knew I did what was right in that situation.
I'm sure there are many more stories that I could tell, but these three stand out as very troubling and trying situations and note that each of the issues occurred with my first child as I worked to navigate the challenging path of teaching and parenting at the same time.
When my next two sons arrived, I was more relaxed and less worried. At that point, I simply knew that I couldn't do all or be all, so I was more forgiving to myself and others.
In the end, as I meet with parents and parent myself, I've learned that you can't be kind enough. It won't be perfect and no one is at fault--the reality is that most people everywhere are reaching to do the best that they can for the people they love and care for. That matters, and we have to be there to support each other in this regard.