Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - March 2, 2012

Guest Opinion: A moment of inspired parenting

Editor's note: The following is a response to a Yahoo article about a boy who wrote an encouraging letter to Kyle Williams of the San Francisco 49ers after their loss to the New York Giants. I wanted to share how it gave me a moment of inspired parenting with my own son.

by Samantha S. Woo

I hope I will be part of a ripple effect of better parenting. I say this in faith, as I am assuming others were as inspired as I was by the article about the 7-year-old boy who wrote an encouraging letter to Kyle Williams of the 49ers (I sent the story to everyone I know).

Then came the next question for me personally: How could I, as a parent, be more like that father? Surviving as a "Palo Alto mom" sometimes means there is an inner tiger that lurks in the fear of failure of all kinds, ready to roar and pounce at anything to ensure success in her children. Being human, and used to the chaos of a family of five, I had somewhat given up the hope of positive parenting in a practical sense ... that is until I was once again inspired by another human, another parent.

I thank the father of the 7-year-old boy who through a single question ("If you feel this way, how sad do you think Kyle Williams is?") was able to elicit human compassion and perspective in his 7-year-old that resulted in the letter. It gave me hope in parenting again, and in little moments of perspective, hope and change in people. And for a moment, just a moment, it helped turn my own parenting around.

This weekend after the 49ers lost, my 9-year-old son had a basketball game. As a kid of small stature, he was more at home in soccer, his main sport, and was pretty shy with his basketball teammates and coach. However, this game was a close one, an exciting one, and my son, along with the team, fought hard. In the end, they lost by a few points. The kids were disappointed, and we parents awkwardly gave the usual, "good game, great try" phrases, and many explanations floated around about the officiating, and so on.

We got in the car and I could see my son was more upset than usual. I assumed I knew why, and started my usual "good game," talk ... but he got more upset. When I dug deeper, he became teary eyed, and said he was upset because he wanted to play the last quarter, but the coach told him that he couldn't. My boy took this to mean he wasn't good enough.

I was at a loss for words. I mumbled something about equal playing time, and grasped and tried to pull every parenting inspiration I could muster. Then it came: He needed comfort and compassion, and maybe validation. But how do you validate a kid in such disappointment? That's when I remembered what the father did in the Kyle Williams story. He turned it around; gave perspective.

I took a brighter tone, "So you asked the coach if you could be in the last quarter?"

"Yes."

"You mean you went up to the coach first?"

"Yes."

"Wow, that took a lot of courage to let him know what you wanted and how you felt!" I could see my son's head tilt a little, and felt encouraged to add, "That took the life skill of initiative that will take you far, farther in life than one basketball game at your age can ever take you."

Then I heard him chuckle, "Yeah."

I took his hand and told him how proud I was of him for coming out of his shell, and how proud he should be of himself.

I know this was only a moment in time, because as a human, I revert to my human ways way too often. But this moment was worth a thousand others, and I have inspiration to thank — inspiration from the 7-year-old's father and from other parents who through their every day choices inspire all of us to have hope in our efforts as parents.

Samantha S. Woo lives in Palo Alto with her husband and three children and is a licensed patent agent.

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