I had the chance the other day to watch parenting in action out my kitchen window, and it has stayed with me long enough that it seems worth sharing.
The parent in question was a tall man leading a tiny black puppy on a retractable leash, out for a walk along with two little girls, both about 5 years old. They came to the corner of my street (I live on one side of a T intersection) and one of the girls made a quick dash off the curb. Because it’s a T, drivers turning right seldom come to a full stop at the corner on which they stood, so it was a risky move on her part. The man caught the hood of her jacket with a rough motion and hauled her back to the sidewalk. She immediately burst into the kind of high-intensity horizontal tears that only a 5-year-old girl can muster. His demeanor softened immediately, and he squatted down so his eyes were level with hers and spoke to her for nearly a minute. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but he held her hand and stroked her hair with a patient expression on his face as her heaving, gasping sobs slowly subsided.
As the trio (and puppy) prepared to go forward across the street, the man gestured for both girls to stop at the curb. He leaned down from behind the formerly crying one and said something into her ear. She nodded but was obviously still distracted by her distress. He put his hand gently under her chin and turned her head to the right, then to the left. His direction was obvious: Look both ways first. She looked up at him with bright eyes and a smile and nodded again, this time with certainty. Finally the lesson was imparted. She took his hand and the group crossed the street safely and went on their way.
There’s a lot to learn when you’re a kid, and a lot to teach when you’re a parent (or guardian). This little girl received an important lesson with grace and love, which is the way I think we’d all prefer to learn our lessons.