Dear Ms. Plorin,
Nearly every single day, we all encounter teachable moments. Some of them are teachable moments for us, individually. And some, if one is a parent, are teachable moments with our kids.
Please note the emphasis on the word “with”.
For every moment we are given to teach them, they are also teaching us. They are teaching us to listen with interest, understand how they think with an open-mind (which is constantly changing, by the way) and how to communicate with someone.
All of which are valuable tools as they grow up in this world.
The world isn’t the same one you or I grew up in – in some ways it’s better…some…worse. We both know, however, that change is inevitable.
Our kids change as they grow – influenced by their family, friends and the world around them. Our job is to lay the foundation in which their growth is built upon.
If it’s a solid foundation, then there is nothing that can come along to destroy it. Will there be challenges or storms? Yes, of course. That’s part of life. The question will then be, will there be anything resulting from those challenges or storms to build on top of that foundation?
That is each parent to decide with their child.
Decisions which are teachable moments.
Sunday was a teachable moment for you. And your daughter.
— NFL 2K Football (@NFL2kFootball) November 15, 2015
Carolina Panthers quarterback, Cam Newton, scored a touchdown in Sunday’s game against your team, the Tennessee Titans.
In that moment, he danced.
He danced with excitement and exultation because he scored a touchdown for his team. He danced because there was a fierce battle being waged on the field. Men who were stronger and bigger than he – they wanted to destroy him.
Why? Because if you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid. Football may be a sport, a game, to us as fans, but it’s a job to those at Newton’s level.
But, every so often, the kid comes out.
That’s what I saw in Newton’s dance. Whether I like the dance itself or not, whether I like the Panthers or not (I don’t), I see a kid dancing with joy.
No, not your kid. And not even all kids.
Just that kid. Cam Newton.
It was objectionable to you. I understand that perspective as a parent. It’s okay that you didn’t like his dancing. I’m assuming you found it too suggestive. I get it.
I would also hope, however, that you don’t like the 5-18 year-old girls and boys that take dance classes where suggestive dance routines might be the norm for competitions. Dancing with moves that are sometimes just as, if not more than, suggestive than Newton’s moves.
And yes, pelvic thrusts are involved.
Ms. Plorin, I understand your frustration at Sunday’s game. As a parent, I do. But, one doesn’t have to be a Panthers or Newton fan to understand that there was a teachable moment with your daughter.
Teachable moments happen when we understand different perspectives. I understand your perspective. But, I also understand Newton’s perspective. And…Panthers fans. And, yes, even your fellow Titans fans perspective that Sunday (fan behavior is a teachable moment too, by the way).
Your daughter was confused by Newton’s actions. Instead of being disappointed by Newton and writing him a letter, why not explain to her that it was his way of celebrating?
But first ask her why she is asking those questions. Find out what is truly going on in her mind. Understanding her now will help your communication improve when she is a teenager. Been there, done that with teenage girls myself.
Or, just talk with her. Tell her that it isn’t how you would celebrate, but it’s how Newton does it. If you feel he was taunting Titans fans, tell her that. If you feel he was disrespectful, tell her that. But, also tell her the why.
Encourage her to ask questions about your point of view. It’s not enough to say because I say so as a parent. It’s not enough to say because that’s how our family does it. Kids need to know the why.
Help her try to understand the why in others. Help her to empathize with them. View things from others perspectives. That doesn’t mean we agree with them. It doesn’t mean we excuse behavior. It means that we are people who are open-minded to learn from others without compromising our own convictions.
Let me ask you this question though. If your daughter offends someone with “her” act of joy, should she apologize? Or, would you want people to know the type of person she is inside? Would you want them to know she makes time for others? Would you tell them that she has learned from a past mistake and become a better person for it?
It’s not easy. Believe me. I’ve been a parent for nearly 30 years, grandparent for 10. I’m still learning. Parents that fail to learn are parents that fail.
We all have different perspectives. Our upbringing, our work and home lives as kids and adults – it all affects who we are in this very moment. It affects the choices we make both when the lights are brightest and when they’re not.
My perspective is different from yours. I have the perspective of a wife, mom (some of it as a single mom), nana, daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, student, employee, a once-promising athlete, sports parent and now sports writer.
Newton’s perspective is different from mine. President Obama, Donald Trump, Roger Goodell, Hillary Clinton, Serena Williams, heck even the Kardashians – we all have different perspectives.
One perspective isn’t necessarily right over the other because our past, which helps shape our individual perspective, cannot be changed. We can, however, learn from the perspective of others.
Perspective is a personal thing, but it does provide context to others’ behavior.
Speaking of context…
I’m not here to excoriate you like many have already done on social media. That action serves no purpose other than people giving voice to their opinions.
And that’s exactly what they are.
They are a dime-a-dozen. Teachable moments are not.
Teachable moments are precious.