Just for Dads ~ April 2022
by Ward Williams
Executive director, Vineyard Family Services
photo by Photograph by Tim Mossholder/Upsplash
Alabama is so lucky to have The American Village. It is a living history museum dedicated to teaching kids American values and principals.
Recently, I was at American Village for the retirement ceremony of Tom Walker, the founder and executive director. During the ceremony, Tom said: “In these times of division, our country is beckoning us to be one American people.” How we teach our kids to live, play, and work with those who are different from us—those who hold different beliefs and opinions—is vitally important to becoming one with our communities and schools, as well as transferring that skill as they grow older and work with others into adulthood.
I once heard a special education elementary teacher say that the playground and the act of play is where kids see each other as equals. On the playground, kids learn to work out conflict with one another and explore how to relate. Lately, I have seen so many adults experience conflict, and it seems that our first reactions are to react emotionally. As parents and adults, we should act differently than early-elementary-age children when we react to our own conflicts. Our first reaction should not be to pout, scream, cry, and go to social media to express our heated emotions while trying to get other people to take our side. We should instead stop for a second to take a deep breath, think before we react, and acknowledge that most people are not out to harm us or our children. We judge ourselves with the best possible intentions, but we tend to judge others by labeling them with the worst possible motives for their actions. I think we have lost the ability to think rationally and intelligently and search for consensus.
I have always been interested in politics. During my early teens to early 20s, I loved to hate Bill Clinton. I never thought of Bill Clinton as a bad guy, and I never thought people who liked Bill Clinton were bad people. It merely came down to my opinions based on his policies, my young age, conversations with my aunt and uncle, and maybe a little help from Rush Limbaugh. I cheered for any American in any competition or any battle from chess to curling to skiing. My family is trying to live this out. As I write this, my daughter is trying out this week to make the varsity dance team, along with many talented dancers. Even though it is a tough competition to make the team, we have taught her that—while the other girls trying out are her competition—they are not her enemies. We have worked hard to instill in her that they are her teammates. Regardless of the outcome of tryouts, the effort that it has taken to get this far and her ability to navigate positive relationship with the other dancers is what we celebrate as a family.
The motto of the United States is E Pluribus Unum, meaning “Out of many, one.” Let us remember to teach our kids that they are just one part of a family, one part of a community, one part of a school, and one part of our country. We can work to get rid of our divisions.
Ward Williams is the founder and executive director of Vineyard Family Services. Contact him at email@example.com.