MONROE - It's one of those key shared experiences that cross class, race, gender, and cultural differences: the relationship between parents and their children.
But as any current parent or former child knows, the ubiquity of this relationship doesn't make it any easier.
"There are no perfect parents, and there never will be. And there are no perfect kids," said Marilyn Timmer, who worked as a parent educator in Monroe Public Schools for 21 years.
Ms. Timmer holds a master's degree in early childhood development and has taught parenting courses at Monroe County Community College. She currently gives parenting workshops at area public schools.
"I want parents to really focus on taking better care of themselves. One of my phrases is: our children are like flowers, with love they grow," she said.
"We are the sunshine and we are also the watering pitcher and their job is to drain us everyday."
So the questions parents must ask themselves are: "How do we keep ourselves emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and socially healthy? How do we keep ourselves healthy so that we can keep on giving in the ways our children need us?"
If the weather cooperates, Ms. Timmer is scheduled to hold a workshop on disciplining children ages 10 and younger at 6:30 p.m. today in Monroe Public Schools' administration building, 1275 North Macomb St.
She says it's important for parents to look at themselves and their own behavior because "we are never not teachers, and our kids are always learning and our kids are learning by the ways we act."
Ms. Timmer said she encourages parents not to get hooked by a misbehaving child.
"If we go ballistic and they go ballistic, we have two nonthinking people, and no problems will be solved."
Karen Herkimer, the district's coordinator for preschool and child care, started the annual series in Monroe about 15 years ago to give parents a leg up.
"It's always important to involve parents in their children's education and hopefully give them some new ideas and strategies," Ms. Herkimer said.
"There is so much more information about brain development today and this is an opportunity to understand, 'Oh, this is why children are doing this.'•"
The series continues March 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the administrative building with a workshop on raising responsible children. Then on March 15 at 6:30 p.m. there is a night of music that encourages family participation and unity through song at Hollywood Elementary School, 1135 Riverview Ave.
The series is scheduled to conclude March 26 at 6:30 p.m. with a discussion on brain development and how it impacts children's behavior - "Do you ever wonder what's going on in your kid's head?" - at the district's administrative building.
Ms. Timmer says that one of her inspirations is Victor Frankl's 1946 book, Man's Search for Meaning, in which he recounts his experiences in a concentration camp and examines how some inmates were able to find meaning despite surroundings.
Parents trying to survive raising their children can draw from the message that Mr. Frankl learned in his years in a concentration camp, Ms. Timmer said.
"Sometimes we are in a situation where we can't change the situation but we can change our attitude," she said.