It’s gone viral! People around the world have seen my simple video that portrays an embarrassing mom (me) dancing on the highway, in a blizzard! Because of a twenty-car pile-up on Colorado’s I-25 outside of Denver, my two teenagers and I were stuck on the highway for almost five hours.
My kids were livid, hungry and desperately in need of a comfort station. This is “the worst day ever,” my son kept lamenting over and over. According to Clifford Nass, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, “Negative emotions involve more thinking and processing than positive ones, so they stick with us longer.”
I knew I had to paint this memory positive, so when “Everybody, Rock Your Body!” by the Backstreet Boys came on the radio, I got out of the car and boogied. My son plugged his ears in complete agitation, but I knew that my silly antics had the potential to create a positive memory they would never forget.I laughed later, as I read one of the thousands of comments that read, “I have no idea why THIS went viral.” Thumbs down. I sort of agreed with this gentleman post-er, until I realized that this crabby fellow must not be a parent.
Maybe this simple video of me embarrassing my son, went viral because, as parents, we have all been there. Feeling the sting when our daughter asks us to drop her off a block away from school, or our son asks us to refrain from any mommy PDAs. Or for me, when their eyes roll every time I try to “floss” properly. (My body, not my teeth!)
We go from being the hero who Band-Aids booboos, assembles toys, and triumphantly carries birthday cupcakes into the classroom, to the embarrassing curmudgeon who “just doesn’t understand!”
As our sweet little chubby faced cherubs begin to grow facial hair or learn to “contour” their cheeks, it becomes easier to disconnect from them, let them have their space, and save ourselves from the heavy sighs and the eye rolls. There have been so many times I have just wanted to throw up my hands and take a vacation from trying so hard to connect, when it seems like they are trying so hard to disconnect.
But I don’t. I don’t give up trying to connect, because as a specialist who lives and breathes child psychology, I know the research that shows, “connection is the number one way to prevent at-risk behaviors in our kids.” I have been an educator my entire life, working in the corporate sector, as well as the classroom, and I have heard some painful stories from both adults and kids. “My parents wanted me to be a doctor, and I have been a disappointment to them my entire life,” or “My dad coaches football and can’t figure out why I don’t want to play. I am just too sensitive, he says.”
Parenting your opposite can be tough. You can probably see from the video that I have a free-spirited personality and my son is a bit more restrained. In a zombie apocalypse, my daughter would be slaying the zombies and I would be their food. Negative bias is the way all humans are programmed — to see what’s wrong before we see what’s right. And at times, when I was frustrated, I would frame the differences I saw in her, as weaknesses. There were days when I couldn’t identify one strength in her because I was blinded by my own perspective. “Why can’t parenting my kids be easier?” Or in other words, “Why aren’t these kids just like me, so I would know how to parent them?”
It has become my passion in life to help parents connect with the kids they don’t understand by using child temperament psychology, as well as my observation of thousands of child personality patterns. Every child is born unique, with their own set of preferences and drives. In the grand story of life, each child has a distinctive role to play, however, some kids are made to feel as if they are one big mistake, because they have a rare temperament that even their parents don’t understand.
Now that I have tasted the Holy Grail of our current generation — viral, world-wide fame — the greatest part was not having one of my daughter’s friends call me and gush “I love you!” because I was all over Google’s home page, or being interviewed by Debra Norville for Inside Edition, or even having two of those adorable Backstreet Boys tweet about me. The greatest part was, and still is, knowing that when my son goes off to college in, gulp, nineteen months, he will never forget the extreme measures his mom took to cheer him up and turn the “worst day ever” into the “best memory ever!”
So, my mantra, as the “dancing mom in traffic,” has now become, “Go ahead, embarrass your kids, because deep down, they will know you are just trying to love them.” No matter how often they roll their eyes, sigh heavily or laugh at you, rather than with you, keep trying, because deep down they will know how much you love them.