“This Is Us,” an NBC TV drama series that aired in September, just completed its first season and is the best show on television. This is not a column about “This Is Us,” but this is a shameless plug.
The show follows Jack and Rebecca Pierson, a couple raising three kids in the 1970s, and their children throughout their adolescence and adult lives. The show follows no chronological pattern and weaves stories from their childhood and adulthood in an artful way to illuminate themes in the characters’ lives.
Jack’s parenting ability usually brings me to tears, but during one episode, his wisdom just dropped my jaw. During the episode, Jack and Rebecca take their children to a public pool. While the overwhelmed parents try to comfort their daughter Kate, who is bullied for being overweight, and navigate conversations with Randall, their adopted black son, their third son, Kevin, almost drowns in the pool due to lack of supervision.
Frustrated, Kevin approaches his father and scorns his parents for reserving no attention for him. Jack, as he usually does, calms his son. Instead of defending himself or using “because I said so” tactics, Jack kneels to look his son in the eye, apologize and ask for forgiveness. He asks Kevin to understand that it’s his first time trying to be a dad.
His insight made me reconsider my own response when I’m figuratively drowning in the pool, whether it’s a pool of group projects, unanswered texts, unclear instructions or annoying behavior.
No matter our age or experience, all of us are experiencing something for the first time. Although I’m a senior, it’s still my first time to take my current classes in tandem and navigate this specific semester. I need to remember to give myself grace, as we all do. Even if it’s not my first time to finish a semester of classes and activities, it’s my first time to complete this semester of classes and activities.
Even for professors who have been teaching for many years, it’s still their first time to teach your specific class. It may be their first time to teach a class while dealing with sickness, family issues or any other life issue from which none of us are immune. They might misplace your reports or give misleading instructions or forget to upload a grade on Canvas. Give them a break. It’s their first time.
Your parents have been parents for as long as you’ve been alive, maybe longer. But it’s their first time raising a child in college. If they’re clingy, overprotective or even distant, understand that it’s the first time their child has left them to go to college. Even if an older sibling’s college experience preceded yours, it’s their first time to let go of you. Every child is different, and every experience is different. Give them a break. It’s their first time.
A friend might get distracted by school, activities, or even other people, but keep in mind that college students are constantly evolving and growing at what can seem like a crazy pace. Give them a break. It’s their first time traversing the combination of factors comprising their life right now.
I do want to note that extending grace to people who continually take advantage of you, manipulate you, abuse you or bring continual harm to you is another matter entirely. I simply mean to address the smaller things, the one-time occurrences or the inconveniences over which we become so incensed and self-righteous. No person is perfect, and no life is perfect. It is wrong for us to expect that of others.
Give people a break. It’s their first time.