How School Drop-Off Became a Mindful Parenting Moment

When my first child was around 2 yrs old, we were in line for coffee and they were singing in their stroller. A person behind me said that when a child sings you know they’re happy. This has stayed with me and every time I hear one of my kids singing, I smile and get a warm feeling inside. 
Yesterday morning as I drove my eighth grader to school, our conversation became about singing in our rooms. I shared that I love it when I hear them singing. They replied with their concern for being disruptive and monitor their volume. Their response was not focused on the joy we both experience when they sing but on not wanting to bother anyone. At first, I was surprised to learn that this internal monitoring was going on because they sound so happy when they’re singing. Then I remembered how concerned I have been throughout my life with not “bothering” other people. 

Many of us learn how to stay quiet, out of the way, not be disruptive, etc., at the expense of fully connecting with our voices, with who we are at that time. We learn to monitor ourselves so not to be the cause of another’s discomfort. Wow! How deeply rooted this way of being was for me. Then I realized that my child likely learned this way of being in the world from me, which I learned from my parents and their parents. And here I was presented, on the short drive to school, with an immense opportunity to put a stop to this cycle. To reframe this limiting perspective of ourselves to one of empowerment, where we embrace our space and share our voices because we matter, because it’s our space too, because it brings us joy, because we cannot control how others respond but we can control how we perceive ourselves. 

As I listened to my child’s experience, I wanted my response to create a space of embrace for them. To create a safe space between us so that they believed me when I shared my delight in hearing their voice AND would feel supported by me to embrace their voice rather than monitor it out of fear of judgment. So I replied, “Sing loudly! Hearing your voice brings me joy. Your expression is not disruptive. Your voice is always welcomed. Share it!”

Maybe not a “parent of the year” worthy response, but we started to sing in silly voices as we pulled up to the front of the school. As I drove off, I felt so grateful for the morning drive and the insight my child bestowed upon me – when we trust our voices and let them be heard, we experience agency, and joy fills our hearts and melts away the worry of judgment. As parents, we can create spaces where our children embrace their voices, express their true selves without apology or deference. Together, we can disrupt the cycle of learned silence. So let us sing loudly!

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