Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's Time to Make Time

My brother, David, started a man's volunteer program at his children's elementary school in Austin. He calls it D.O.G.s (Dad's on Guard). The male volunteers, comprised of fathers and grandfathers, mostly help with morning cross walk duty and drop off procedures. At this school, you can either pull through a steady flowing car line where the children are greeted by teachers or other adult volunteers and escorted to their classroom. The other option is to pull around the front of the school, park in a parking space and walk your child into the building.

One day, my father, who has a great name by the way (Bill Hill), volunteered to watch over the front of the building. It was his duty to make sure people parked in the appropriate spots and that parents knew they had to walk their child into the building. This is an awesome job for Dad. It incorporates two of his favorite tasks: 1) he could tell people what to do and 2) he could tell people they were wrong.

As expected, many an opportunity arose for Guard D.O.G. Bill Hill to emphatically, yet kindly tell parents that, no, they shouldn't park in handicap parking and that, yes, they were expected to get out of their cars and walk their children into the building. Yes, of course, this was the school's policy and it was by all means meant only for the safety of the children, not annoy the parents. He would clearly explain that if they didn't like that option, they were more than welcome to go via the drop off option.

Parents got mad. They slammed doors, They screeched tires. They said very unpleasant things to Guard D.O.G. Bill Hill. But the most poignant reply when Dad gave them the choices of either going through the line or parking legally and walking their child to unquestionable safety was: "I don't have time!" The popular act then would be for them to verbally push their children out of the car, probably telling them to ignore the crazy man in the orange vest and pull off in a huff before their child's feet even hit the sidewalk.

What message did these parents send to their kids? You're not important enough to me. It is OK to go against the rules, oh, and by the way, it is also OK to treat people poorly in the process. Your safety is worth a risk. Make a lot of noise and throw a little fit and you, too, can probably get your way. I'm too busy to take care of you.

Unfortunately I think this mindset is one that several of us adopt at one time or another. I'm guilty of it, especially when I am tired or stressed. But lately I have been trying to live a more mindful life: one that allows me moments of pause to insure I am living a life that I want my children to emulate. My goal is not to be a "do as I say not as I do" parent but to be a kind of person I want my children to become. My children see how I treat people; they know how I treat them. The way I see it, my kids are getting older by the second. Now is the only time I have with them. It is time to make time.

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