Monday, March 21, 2011

Tornado Shelter Parenting

With all eyes on Japan, watching families standing in lines and sorting through the remains of their cities,  I am reminded of the small scale crisis our family faced when we first moved to Oklahoma.  It never occured to us that a family camping trip to Kansas during tornado season would be ill fated.  It seemed like a great idea at the time . . . but with two kids and a minivan full of stuff we found ourselves shortening the trip to head for shelter under an eery green sky.  In a little no name town we followed the siren sounds and signs to a small Baptist church. 
Weather in this region brings interesting collections of people together.  Jim Fay, of Parenting with Love and Logic fame, has described three basic parenting styles.  And sure enough they were represented in the Tornado Shelter. Families (and some pets) of all types, shapes, and styles of parenting.  To our left were the Drill Sargents- scrunched together underneath a table with mom holding a portable radio to her ear shouting out the path of the tornado.  Her children wide eyed and attentive.  To our right were the Helicopters- the parent narrating a story that never included the tornado "This is so much fun, look at all the cute doggies, oh and that cat looks pretty wet, isn't that silly?" The children were understandably confused.  The fear did bring out alot of prosocial behavior, with some helping others to find a place on the floor or sharing a coat while we all waited.  In our case, the disaster was averted, the siren ended, an all clear shouted from underneath the table and we dispersed, strangers again climbing back into our vehicles.

Soothing our children's fears exposes our own attitudes toward stress.  Somewhere in between the Drill sargents and the Helicopters is an intentional response that balances reality with cool headed coping that would be the Consultants in the group.  The parents who gave calm updates with reassurances and encouragement to their families.  They were comforting to us, serving as anonymous mentors that have my gratitude to this day.

I find my thoughts circling back to the current crisis in Japan.  All of those families doing the best they can to keep their children safe and manage themselves. 

What is your response to the Tsunami in Japan?  Have you faced fear together as a family?

1 comment:

  1. Jim Fay is a genius. As a teacher, he saved me many times. Your entry reminds me of times with students huddled in a room during tornado sirens and intruder alerts. I confess I was better with school lock-downs for intruders than Mother Nature. As a parent, I strive to be the "Consultant."

    Time and again I read stories about the people of Japan and hurt for them as they try to keep their families safe.