By Ricardo Márquez
In an ordinary day at the entrance to a daycare, you can see some children crying; mothers or fathers rushing to get to their jobs on time; some kids walking away smiling and saying hello, others fiercely clinging to their parents.
What happens before leaving home? When you have a flexible schedule and grandparents, family members or nannies to help out, these moments are less stressful, the children’s pace is respected and there’s a greater level of satisfaction with the whole process. There’s time to wait between spoonfuls and even between foods, to linger a while longer in the bathroom, or make a clothing switch at the last minute.
Surely, the children who belong to this group leave their parents more content and plunge less fearful into the day’s experiences. The children’s basic emotional needs of accompaniment, support and self-esteem have been better satisfied … and that gives them greater security to face unfamiliar spaces, situations and people.
In the great cities, the family – with its distinct forms and models – has been reduced and become isolated in its own practices. The need to live a life with dignity pushes fathers and mothers to work long hours, often two jobs. The extended family, which had a role to support new couples in the Hispanic culture, for example, was left behind, on the other side of the border.
In that context, the hours before going to school become a torturous power struggle at home. Anxious parents are worried about arriving on time at their job and meeting their duties. Accumulated exhaustion and frustrations can fuel screaming or even violence, a hard yank of an arm, and discouraging words: “Don’t be lazy,” “You’re never going to learn,” “If we’re late it’s your fault.”
Can you imagine how a child grows up amid these practices that are repeated every day before going to school?”
The intention of this reflection is not to judge, nor to make those who have no option feel bad as they face the social and economic realities we’re all facing. Every child is unique, as is each family and living situation. The intention is to raise awareness of our own practices and to see what results we’re creating.
If what prevails is stress, dissatisfaction, discouragement, aggressiveness or depression, then there’s an opportunity to introduce small changes to improve the emotional climate of the period before going to school.
Some families leave food prepared or clothes ready the night before, a simple step that can result in a meaningful change when it’s time to leave. Value any expression of collaboration that encourages the child to feel better about himself or herself: “Thank you for opening the door.”
At night, take advantage of those moments before sleep: Do a simple prayer, give thanks for the best the day offered, ask for forgiveness for offenses, and express a message of confidence, asking, “What could we do tomorrow to love each other more?”
Motivated adults create the environment to educate and to help their children to feel motivated, to feel loved, respected and accompanied.
Parents are not alone. Our parishes have prayer groups, couples’ ministries and community services that are ready to help fathers and mothers better fulfill our mission.
Ricardo Márquez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.