Parenting is about relationship, says library luncheon speaker
David Thomas, a Shelbyville native who has co-written six books on parenting, stressed the importance of relationships Tuesday as the guest speaker for Argie Cooper Public Library's annual Tennessee Box Luncheon.
Thomas also put in a good word for libraries, saying the love of reading he developed at the library in Shelbyville led to his success as a writer.
"My journey as a writer really did begin in this city," he said.
The luncheon, sponsored each year by the Friends of Argie Cooper Public Library, was held at the Blue Ribbon Circle on the Celebration grounds.
Thomas recalled his visit to the library as a child, sitting in frog-shaped and pelican-shaped chairs in the children's area and reading books like Maurice Sendak's "Where The Wild Things Are." That book in particular was the inspiration for one of Thomas's books on parenting, "Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys."
Thomas is director of men's and boys' counseling for Daystar Ministries in Nashville. He's the son of Monty and Barbara Thomas of Shelbyville; Monty Thomas, as chairman of the Friends of the Library Council, emceed Tuesday's luncheon.
David Thomas was introduced by Friends vice-chair Kay Bartley.
"David is anchored in solid Shelbyville stock," she said.
The author had spoken at the library luncheon once previously but noted that his children are now older, giving him new perspectives on parenting.
He stressed the importance of relationships in parenting. A son of one of his friends was at the playground one day, twisting and contorting around a metal railing as his father looked on.
The boy invited the father to join in, and the father carefully responded that that was the type of thing he, the father, did when he was a boy. "It still might be fun," responded the child, and David Thomas said that children often invite us into relationship, wanting us to join in their experiences.
"Kids teach us that relationship matters, that connections are important," he said.
In the days of constant connection, said the author, both children and parents are bombarded with information and online relationships that can distract from real one-on-one relationships. Parents must work harder to maintain a real connection with their children, he said.
Thomas also discussed the differences between parenting from a standpoint of fear and parenting from a standpoint of love. He told a story of a former client of his who was dropped off by his parents at college for the first time.
The young man's father was emotional, crying and telling the young man how much he loved him, while the mother was preoccupied with warning the young man about all the things that could go wrong, from alcohol abuse to spoiled milk in the fridge.
The right direction
Thomas told his own self-deprecating story of parenting out of fear, when his daughter -- now an adolescent -- entered school for the first time. After the first two weeks, the school asked parents to drop children off and allow them to find their own way to their classrooms.
Thomas' daughter was directionally-challenged, and he skulked around the outside of the school looking into windows to try to see if she had made it safely to her classroom with a plate of muffins for her teacher.
David Thomas' latest book is "Intentional Parenting: Autopilot Is for Planes," co-written with his Daystar co-workers Sissy Goff and Melissa Trevathan.
New library nears
After David Thomas' presentation, his father Monty Thomas updated the audience on the progress towards a new library building.
After the proposed new building was downsized, the library is now "within striking distance" of having it fully funded, said Monty Thomas. He thanked Bedford County Board of Commissioners and Shelbyville City Council for their moral and financial support of the project.
Plans are now complete for the 12,000-square-foot facility and bids will be ready next week, at which point the library board will know exactly how much the new facility will cost.
The Rev. Tom Bierovic of First Christian Church delivered the invocation for the luncheon.