Jenna Behrens is a licensed professional counselor who has been practicing in the mental health field for seven years. She owns Behrens Psychotherapy Services, LLC which has four office locations around the Milwaukee area. She works with children, adolescents, families, and adults on a wide array of issues including depression, anxiety, ADHD, childhood behavioral disorders, adjustment disorders, stress and parenting.
I went to the community pool a few weekends ago intending on reading a book and relaxing. Instead, I was sucked into working. Well... Working in my mind. I wasn't actually with a client so the other participants weren't aware of who I was or what I do for a living. The pool was extremely crowded and the only empty lounge chair was next to a family of four. Mom, Dad, and 2 daughters around 5 and 7 years old. Let me tell you, when I tell people I'm a psychotherapist, counselor, or shink, they always respond with the same thing "Uh oh! I hope you're not analyzing me." I usually respond with something like "Don't worry. I'm not working." But the longer I am in this field, the more difficult it is for me to not analyze, especially poor parenting.
So, here I am sitting poolside, trying to read, and all I hear are excuses from these parents next to me. Both of the girls asked their parents several times to come swimming and all the parents did was make excuses (lie) to their kids. Probably about 20 different variations of "I can't" or "I will in 5 minutes" came out of the parent's mouths. At one point, one of the daughters asked her Dad "Can you stop playing with your phone and come play with me?" At which point I laughed out loud. I'm pretty sure the Dad didn't appreciate that, but geez. It was getting a ridiculous. Each time one parent would come up with an excuse, the other parent would look at them with, what seemed to be, pride as if this was a fun game they agreed upon.
If you're reading this and you're a parent, you may be wondering what the big deal is. I get it. Parenting is exhausting and sometimes you just want to relax. Fine. Great. You should. But then just tell your child "Sweetie, swimming looks so fun for you right now but Mommy is tired and just wants to relax. I will let you know if I want to come in." Done. No lying and I bet your child will hear you and stop bugging you. This is not just an issue of excuses. These are lies and lying breaks down the respect between a child and parent. Children aren't the only ones that have to tell the truth. Parents do too not only to model good behavior but to decrease anxiety and defiance in children by letting them know what to expect and, maybe most importantly, so they can trust others in the future.
Needless to say, the parents NEVER went in the pool with their daughters and it was Father's Day. I began wondering what the rest of their day would look like. I wondered if the parents may be hearing "In five minutes" "I'm tired" or "I'm sick" later when they tell their daughters to clean up their toys. I actually kind of hope so.