"I'm not done being the best father I can be for Ben -- not by a very long measure." This was recently declared by parent David Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son, Ben, was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th.
David went on to share that the word "parent" is also defined as "point of origin."
Point of origin -- look that up and you may find, "starting point -- the point from where things begin... source"
There are 149 million Americans who have the honor of being someone's "point of origin."
You may also find this definition upon looking up point of origin:
"Location where a carrier receives a shipment from a shipper for transportation to the destination."
Few would argue that as the point of origin for a "shipment," it is our responsibility to see to it that the shipment is secured and prepared in such a way that it has the best chance of arriving safely at its destination.
What then about our most precious "shipments?" As their source, it is undoubtedly a parent's responsibility to try and ensure a safe and successful journey.
While there may be some who view the responsibility as merely one of getting a child from point A to point B successfully in their lives, most know that the job is far more complex and demanding.
There is an awful lot of talk these days about responsibility -- particularly gun responsibility. As usual, there are differing and passionate feelings about the specifics of those responsibilities.
What we are hearing less about is our responsibility to be "the best parents we can be." Our responsibility, as 149 million points of origin, is to get our children not only safely to their destination, but to see to it that they are equipped on their journey with as much resilience, compassion and equanimity as possible.
We may not agree about our rights and responsibilities when it comes to firearms, but can we perhaps agree that it is our responsibility to be the best parents we can be and to then go a step further by consistently implementing adjustments in how we parent in order to make being the best parent we can be possible?
Not every problem needs to be solved by a law. And parenting, to me, is certainly less volatile an issue than gun ownership. A collective effort to parent more consciously could transcend differences in parenting styles and maybe over time even elicit a less-charged climate among more explosive disputes like gun legislation.
What if parents agreed to implement one, two or maybe all three of the following non-contentious intentions on a regular basis?
• Complimenting your child for who they are rather than for what they have done.
Rather than glorifying the A-plus or winning goal, describe the way your child can light up the whole house, or explain why you are grateful to have them in your life, or list the things they do that make you laugh. Offer words they will internalize and carry with them through life.
• Empathizing -- even when you disagree:
Rather than castigating a child's angry outburst (lest they grow up forever ill-mannered), relax, take a breath and commiserate for a moment. There is nothing like feeling "heard" to help diffuse a situation. Recall a similar situation from your own life and share it.
• Replacing angry thoughts when parenting:
Scarlett Lewis, mother of Jesse Lewis, who was also killed at Sandy Hook School, asked mourners to "choose love" by replacing angry thoughts with a kind or loving one. She later received a note stating that she had changed one man's life with that simple plea. He had been walking around angry most of his life, he wrote, and "never knew he had a choice." We all have that choice. It is that simple.
If such uncomplicated intentions seem entirely foreign or difficult, it's time to ask if we are really being the best parents we can be.
As our children's points of origin, their source, it is our responsibility -- whether they are babies, teenagers, adults or even gone from this world, as David Wheeler has demonstrated -- to never stop trying our best.
In the words of Maya Angelou, "When you know better you do better." We "sources" have the potential to be more influential than we can possibly imagine
"If anything is to be fixed, healed or resolved, the resolution needs a 'point of origin.' In other words, it needs parents." David Wheeler
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