As summer comes to an end with kids back to school and most people back to work, you can feel the energy in the air. After talking with many parents over that last few weeks excited to get their kids back in school – some starting new schools, others new classes and grades – you could hear the flurry of excitement, expectations and uncertainties that came with it. What teacher is my child going to have, what credentials do they have and how well is my child going to learn with them? Who will be in his/ her class? How is the behavior of certain kids going to affect how my child learns and shows up each day? Who is going to know more than my child, who is going to know less and how is that going to affect how my child learns?
Obviously, we all want the best for our children and as parents believe that our children are the best, at everything! However, how do our assumptions affect our children and their experiences? And how do our assumptions affect how we show up as parents?
Recently, I had an experience at my son’s elementary school where safety was called into question, and it was a legitimate concern. Without going into too much detail, I learned about this situation, involved an individual with a questionable past who was sometimes on campus, from other parents who were outraged (with good reason) and much discussion was taking place over the summer about the safety of our campus, the safety of our children as well as calling into question the judgment of our leaders in allowing this to occur.
While it was easy to let our minds run wild with possibilities and assumptions that we were making about this situation, looking back the reality was, no one really knew exactly what was going on. I had feelings of fear, anger, and doubt about the school that we were sending our child to, almost betrayed – how could this happen?! This isn’t the philosophy of the school we signed up for. Immediately my husband and I made an appointment to meet with the director of the school to discuss what was really happening, ask questions about who this person was and understand the safety concerns that we had as parents sending our child to the campus everyday. What we learned was that there were A LOT of assumptions being made and in fact our campus was really safe – procedures had been put in place and our director was taking the safety of our children incredibly seriously. As we left the meeting we felt relieved, empowered, proud of our school choice and excited to send our child off to first grade. We are in good hands, our kids are part of a culture we believe in. I marveled as I drove away how 35 minutes can completely change a situation. By testing our assumptions we strengthened relationships, empower ourselves, and our community. It also reminded us how assumptions unchallenged can be destructive, induce anger or fear, and not serve us well.
The success of any culture (be it a workplace, family, school, organization) as well as the success of any relationship largely relies in our ability to test assumptions: ask questions, dig deeper and gain clarity of a situation so that everyone has a clear idea of what is going on. It is also an opportunity for us to dig deeper within ourselves and question who is this really about? Where is this assumption coming from? What belief do I have that may support this assumption being made and how can it be challenged?
As we sent our son off to first grade this morning, sure there was lots of uncertainty and opportunity for assumptions to be made. However, we watched our 6-year-old bound out of the house with such excitement and openness to meet new friends, have new experiences and make new discoveries without the consideration of any other outcome. It was a great reminder and lesson to us as parents of where assumptions begin and end.
What assumptions are you making? How is it affecting how you show up as a parent? How are you testing them?