A few years ago I found myself on a plane – without my husband along for support – with our then 3 and 7-year old children. Maxwell, our youngest, soon fell asleep. And whether it was because he was just getting over a flu-bug or woke up in a strange place or something else, he rocketed out of that sleep into a full-on terror-stricken screaming meltdown. On. An. Airplane.
He was tossing his little body around and I was trying my very best to calm him. We were seated right near the front so I stood up with him to try and sway and rock him back into his sane mind. But the screaming kept on. And on. And on. For a good 20 minutes.
I was very much aware of the absolute irritation this incited in a good many people on that plane. And as my little boy cried his terribly distressed heart out, I could feel my face going all shades of red and my blood pressure going all sorts of crazy. As much as I knew I needed to stay in the moment for my tiny upset kiddo, I also knew that some of my fellow passengers were ready to pitch us out the emergency exit.
And then it happened. One of the flight attendants (shout out to WestJet!) came up to me, gently put her hand on my shoulder, and with eyes full of compassion and kindness, said to me, “You are doing an awesome job – you’ve got this.”
I tell you no lies when I say that even as I type this almost 5 years later, I get all teary-eyed thinking about that flight attendant’s kindness. And to this day, I still choose to fly that airline whenever possible because even now I continue to be so full of gratitude for her sweet care of me.
Here is why that mattered so much: I needed that. And more than that, my child needed that.
What was important to my boy in that moment is that I was able to stay present and calm and available to supporting him. And for me to do that when the pressure felt so intense, I needed someone to stay present and calm and available to me.
This brings me excitedly to the launch of a new call to action for every single adult out there in communities across the land. I am calling it the “Love a parent – love a child” campaign – or LP-LC for short. I believe that one of the ways we can have the greatest impact on nurturing the healthy development of the next generation is to love on their parents.
We often say it takes a village to raise a child. But just for a minute, imagine what it would look like if we broadened the lens and got all of the people in all of the villages on board with loving on parents? If children need the security of a solid emotional connection with a safe and loving adult in order to have the best chance at growing up in the best possible way, imagine how we could change the world if we took care of parents so they were available to do their best job at being that solid, emotionally available caregiver to their child. If people everywhere were to champion parents in the minutia of day-to-day life, so that parents then had the reserves to champion their children, it really would change the world.
Every single parent has their “airplane” moment kind of story. And a lot of parents have those kind of moments on a weekly basis. Or more. If I think of many of the wonderful parents that I have had the good fortune of working alongside in my clinical practice, I will tell you their greatest struggle is not what is happening for their child.
Their greatest struggle is dealing with how the world reacts to what is happening for their child. And as part of that, reacts to them as parents.
So what if, every single one of us, the next time we saw a parent with a child who was struggling behaviorally or in any other way, channeled the care of that inspired flight attendant and took it upon ourselves to champion that parent instead of shunning them.
Encourage that parent instead of chiding them.
Empower that parent instead of judging them.
The collective power in whole communities of people caring for parents in this kind of way would be mind-blowing! The trickle down impact on children could literally change the neurological infrastructure in the emotional core of the brains of our next generation. We. Need. That.
And guess what else?! It is free!!! No government funding or referendums required! No tedious paperwork or red tape to be bothered with. All it takes it a little care. And we are off!
Need some ideas to get you started? Here’s a few:
1. Next time you see a child melting down in the grocery store line-up, give the parent a little “he’ll be ok – you just hang in there” one-liner.
2. Next time you see a child clinging to their parent at school drop-off, give them a thumbs up and a message of “you’re doing great – she needs you and it’s so awesome you are here for her.”
3. When you next come across a child “stirring up trouble” at the playground, be kind to their parent. Give them a smile. Everybody has a story.
4. Have a neighbour home with little ones? Do a surprise drop of a cup of something lovely and warm with no expectation for an invite in.
5. If you come across a parent who you know is the parent of “that child” in your son’s class, invite that parent to sit with you on the field trip. Everybody needs a sense of belonging.
And now, let’s do this. Tell everybody you know to get on the LP-LC train. “Our” (collective!) children need this and because of that, “our” parents need this. They are the ones raising the next generation – let’s take care of them for they have a most important job to do!
And I want to hear your stories! If you’ve been LP-LC’d in a grocery store line up – tell us about it! Or if you have an experience of dishing out some LP-LC lovin’ then we want to know about that too.
Ready, set, GO!!