Over this past Memorial Day weekend, it was clear to see that summer had arrived in all its glory: the sun had returned to the Greater Cincinnati area and families were out enjoying all the warmth and festivities. I, along with many others, was doing just that! I ran in a race, went to the Taste of Cincinnati, biked at Miami Whitewater Park and by Monday was sitting poolside at Coney Island. And through it all I saw parents with their children, enjoying the weather and the activities. At least for the most part!
One highlight of my weekend was the Kicks for Kids race. This annual race supports Kicks for Kids – a charity that helps to level the playing field for local children at risk. I run in lots of races and what is special to me about this race is that kids run the race with the adults. Families run together! And as I ran the race, I witnessed some inspiring parents and kids. I saw a parent encourage her son to “run his own pace,” while another encouraged his son not to quit on a hill. I saw a boy crying as he whimpered, “I’m hot,” and his mother respond with “OK, it’s important that we finish, but we can walk for a while.” And at the end, as I pushed myself up the last hill, I heard a parent say to his teenage son, “You aren’t going to let her beat you, are you?” The son responded by picking up his pace and crossing the line before me! (KIDS!!)
What really struck me was that these parents “got it.” They encouraged their children to persevere, encouraged them to do their best regardless of others around them. They were teaching them to give to an organization that is trying to make a difference – at the same time they were enjoying an activity together.
Later that same day, I wandered through the Taste of Cincinnati. It was a nice warm evening so it was plenty crowded and the food was great! Again I noticed families, parents with kids trying to enjoy the event, but this event differed greatly from my experience earlier in the day. Kids and parents did not seem to be having fun: toddlers crying to get out of strollers and young children clinging to adult hands. From their vantage point these children could only see adult legs all around them, with no way to get out! Parents responded by trying to soothe their children while pushing themselves and the strollers through the crowd. It wasn’t working and I had to wonder, did these parents really think it would work? Was this really an event to bring their children to? I get that parents get overwhelmed and need some time to enjoy themselves. I understand the importance of filling up your own “bucket of joy” so you have something to give to your children. But my sense was that this event caused both parents and kids to feel completely overwhelmed.
I am sharing these stories to encourage parents to be planful and thoughtful. As parents we are responsible for the well-being of ourselves and our children, and I have found that planning for the needs of children before attending an activity or event can be a critical factor to the success and enjoyment of the day. Thinking through whether the time and type of event will be enjoyable for children is vital. Summer can offer so many opportunities; it is a great time to enjoy each other, to share in activities and create memories. I plan to make the most of it!