Parents Anonymous welcomes every parent (or someone in a parenting role) to the groups no matter who they are or where they come from. A new member once told our group about another parenting support group she had attended a short time before. She felt as though she had a difficult time getting her needs met in that group. We asked her why she felt her needs were not being met and she began to laugh.
“I was looking for support with real parenting issues and the mothers got stuck talking about how white her daughter’s white sneakers were!” the member said, “I have a kid that punches holes in the wall!”
It was funny to think about but it must have been important to the sneaker mom. Evidently the girl in question was into cheerleading and the whiteness of the girl’s sneakers was very important, so much so, that the mom was truly distressed if the sneakers weren’t white-white. After the sneakers had been washed, the mom thought they seemed a bit dingy, slightly off-white.
Perhaps many of you reading this will chuckle but let us think about this for a moment. To this mother, it was very important, maybe not as important as end-of-year test scores, but still quite important. I know nothing about cheerleading but I can guess that in some circles, cheerleading might considered to be along the same lines as basketball or gymnastics. To become a cheerleader, girls must be in top form athletically. Cheerleaders must be flexible, able jump high, do splits and to lift other girls with endurance to hold a stable pose. They would need to yell and be able to cheer in unison. And apparently, cheerleaders had to have the whitest of white sneakers.
Cheerleaders are often stereotyped in a negative manner but when you really think about them, quite the opposite is true. Cheerleaders must be dedicated to their activity and in many organizations they are encouraged to be active in their community as volunteers well as getting good grades. They are often called on to mentor or tutor younger children. Cheerleaders can be excellent role models so I can truly understand why cheerleading is so important to this mom and her daughter.
Parents Anonymous encourages respect between parents at all times. Being in a Parents Anonymous group every parent can expect everyone to listen even if they do not agree or understand. While it may seem silly to some, having incredibly white sneakers was important to this mom. The mother might have been attending for other, more serious issues, but on that week the mom was talking about sneakers.
One week I was dealing with an issue that even I was reluctant to talk about because even I thought it was silly. My daughter Chelsey had forgotten how to eat, breathe and swallow at the same time. I am not kidding— you cannot make this up. It was disrupting our meals and it was distressing to me seeing her so upset and afraid while swallowing her food. When I finally spoke about Chelsey’s struggle the other parents listened and offered encouragement and reassurance that this too shall pass. Being able to freely discuss the stress it was causing made me feel better.
To deal with an issue in the group that may appear silly or ridiculous to some, it can help to put ourselves in the other parent’s shoes. While it seems silly to us it is still an important issue to a parent and should not be judged as silly or unimportant. Parents Anonymous is a one-size-fits-all parent support group.
In each group we decide how to share the amount of time that each member uses. If the time is split between members evenly, it should not matter to others what the member wants to talk about during their portion of time.
Ted Bowman once said, “Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.” Each member is responsible for their own progress in group.
Remember that a parent may be struggling with issues they are not willing to bring up in group till they are comfortable they will be treated with respect and not be judged. Each time this parent speaks, they may be testing the waters.
You have stopped listening the very moment you begin to judge another member.
We cannot judge a person’s issue as unworthy when we do not have all the facts. If it is a problem for them… then it is a problem.
One issue or problem does not make – or break – a parent.
Do unto others… Listen to others as you would have them listen to you.
I hope this has been helpful for working with others in a support group environment. If you have questions or comments feel free to get in touch with me.