Bystander Effect: A Swan Rescue

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On my morning commute, I came across an unusual sight: an injured swan. He was stuck on the main bridge in town which is a heavy traffic area. At first, I slowed to a stop (it was safe to do so!), took a photo, and thought that he would walk or fly away. I began to realize that something wasn’t right. He couldn’t walk very far. He’d take a few steps and then stop. And he wasn’t flying away despite the vehicles and people. I saw that the swan was bleeding from his beak. I came to learn that one bystander had seen the swan fly into the bridge and slide across the pavement.

A man and a woman left their truck and walked towards the swan in an attempt to have the swan move off of the bridge. This didn’t work. The swan just stood there. They kept a safe distance from the swan as they didn’t want the swan to attack due to feeling threatened. The swan made a few attempts to escape by squeezing through the guardrail on the bridge (which is impossible for a bird of his size). I informed this couple that I would go park my car and return to help. When I arrived on foot, we were at a stand still with the swan. The swan was stressed but not moving.

Traffic at the bridge was backed up. Some were quick to drive by, others slowed to take a photo and then drive on. One lady rolled down her window and said the following to me: “why aren’t they walking towards the swan to get it to move?” I stated that they had attempted this but were afraid that the swan may attack them out of defense. She sighed, rolled her eyes and drove away.

Immediately, I thought of Brene Brown’s thoughts re: The Man In the Arena (a quote by Theodore Roosevelt). In summary, people in the stands find it easy to criticize those in the arena. But unless the person is also in the arena, we need not to concern ourselves with their feedback. Thanks to Brene Brown and T. Roosevelt, I was able to let this woman’s comment slide off my back and continue on in my attempt to help the swan.

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Good news: a man arrived on the scene to help with the swan rescue. He brought with him a large black coat and covered the swan’s face and picked up the swan. He walked with the swan in his arms til they reached the side of the bridge. As soon as the swan was on grass its instincts returned. Watching the swan fly away over the Napanee river was a beautiful sight.

This morning, I’m grateful for the experience of being in the arena. In deciding to not be a bystander, I was able to partake in the beauty that is strangers working together for a cause. And I’m thankful for the reality that “it is not the critic who counts”. Instead of offering criticism from the sidelines, let’s be people that are in the arena.

The real reason why having a child is both the hardest & the best thing

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Prior to having a child, I enjoyed hearing from others what having a child is like. I wanted  insight into the biggest decision a person can make (that will rock their world as they know it). The most common answer that I received was, “It’s the hardest thing that you will ever do but it’s also the best thing that you will ever do.” Hmm. This response was so vague. It left me confused. Why exactly is it the hardest thing? And why is it also the best thing? I didn’t receive specific answers from anyone.  It was like there was a code amongst parents to remain vague and not go into detail re:  why it’s so hard.  I did have one person say, “If people knew just how hard it is they would never have kids!” Again, wasn’t helpful.

Now that I’m 10 months into mothering, I’m trying to give an answer as to why being a parent is both the hardest and the best thing. At first, I’d tell you that it’s the hardest thing because you just can’t fully understand how painful the extreme lack of sleep is or how annoying your child’s cry can be (and how they cry for a million reasons you’ll never fully understand). Also, no breaks. Did I mention no breaks? I just sat down to write this post and now I hear her crying…she’s awake from her nap. Parenting never ends. With everything else, you can turn it off/walk away/take a break. Being a mom is 24/7.

But the more I ponder the question “Why is it the hardest and also the best?” I’m forced to dig deeper than just the day-to-day of childcare. For me, I think raising a child is the hardest thing that a person can do because it requires you to model by example what you want your child to do, who you want them to be.

“It was clear from the data that we cannot give our children what we don’t have. Where we are in our journey of living and loving with our whole hearts is a much stronger indicator of parenting success than anything we can learn from how-to books.” – Brene Brown

Truth is, pregnancy and childbirth are hard. Sleep deprivation is hard. Being on 24/7 is hard. But that’s just the hard stuff. The hard AND the best is this: your child gives you the opportunity to be the best version of yourself. An authentic and vulnerable person. A person who sets appropriate & healthy boundaries. A person who loves others with actions and not just words. A person who loves self.  A person who lives with their whole heart.

“How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a Wholehearted life: loving ourselves.” – Brene Brown

Here’s the truth behind “having a child is both the hardest and the best”…a child gives you a choice: continue living on autopilot, doing the same old, or stop and consider if who you are is exactly who you’d want your child to be. Raising a child is not, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Raising a child is, “monkey see – monkey do.” That, my friends, is hard. But this can also be the best thing that you ever do.