Describe a setting in which you have collaborated or interacted with people whose experiences and/or beliefs differ from yours. Address your initial feelings, and how those feelings were or were not changed by this experience.
We have a saying at work: “Dealing with an angry mom is like dealing with a burglar; just give her what she wants, and no one gets hurt.”
I see it almost every day at the pool – a mother’s desperate desire to have everyone acknowledge her son as the fastest, strongest, and simply the best. I believe that mothers hold a special place within the animal kingdom, possessing the power to instantly transform into the scariest species on the planet. They will pounce instinctively for the betterment of their offspring, and they’ll do it all without chipping a nail. And I witnessed this unabashed, maternal aggressiveness recently when a mom felt that her son was not being recognized as the alpha in the pack.
I watch as she confidently strolls towards me from the side of the pool, eyes locked, head raised, and shoulders back. All I can do is brace for the impending verbal barrage coming my way. “Why is my son with this group?!? He deserves to be in the next level. Look! He is swimming perfectly. At home, when I swim with him, he goes all the way across the pool without stopping! Put him in the next level class!”
Keeping my composure, I periodically glance at the pool to check the safety of all my other swimmers while she continues for another five minutes about how her son is number one in some other program and has been doing this for years. I think to myself – he is only four years old, was he doing the backstroke in the womb? Staying true to our workplace adage, I nod until she finishes her tirade and reply with a polite, “When this exercise is completed, you can go talk to the department head, and she’ll move your son to the other class.”
As she stormed off, I couldn’t help but think about how differently my mother would have handled the situation if I were in the lower level class. I reflected upon the idea that parenting styles differ greatly from family to family. I know that mothers sometimes overstep their bounds, but ultimately realize that such overstepping is solely for the benefit of their children. A mother’s child is her prized possession, the thing she loves most in life. From personal experience, I know my mother would scale a mountain, fight off a pack of hungry wolves, and sell all her belongings if it would help me achieve my goals.
Mothers are simultaneously the most supportive yet most combative people in the world, making them tough to deal with at times. However, having now worked with many families, I have developed the skills to reassure parents and maintain my equanimity. If I can soothe an offended mom at the pool, I can do anything. At the end of the day, all mothers wants the same thing; they just choose to employ different tactics.