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Dana Winters, the Director of the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, doesn’t just teach a class called “What Would Fred Rogers Do?”, she lives in the shadow of that question. As she’ll admit, this can make it hard to set reasonable expectations for herself as the parent. But Winter knows that the great is the enemy of the good and the unsaid is the enemy of all.

Fred Rogers remains a saint-like figure. I imagine that as a scholar who studies the man, it’s hard not to feel like you suffer in contrast to his benevolence. Is that hard?

When Fred talked about the process of parenting, he said there were no perfect parents (he was including himself)  and the best we can do is keep trying. Right now, I have two bodies solely reliant on me and no idea what’s coming next. My husband is working all the time. My goal is to make sure that this doesn’t become a traumatic experience for my daughters. So I focus on moments. They don’t have to be perfect, I just need to string them together.

Kids are surprisingly resilient. They know we’re trying. There’s grace when kids see that. In truth, the expectations we hold for ourselves are often higher than the expectations our kids hold for us. Grace can be external, sure, but it needs to be internal as well. Parents need to forgive themselves. 

So this isn’t just about getting it right? It’s about getting it wrong and moving forward regardless?

Look, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Fred knew that. He wasn’t all Feelings McFeely. He was strong. Knowing that feelings are not an excuse for behavior is strength beyond words. I try to borrow that and be honest with my kids. Sometimes I behave badly and say, ‘That wasn’t a good mom moment.’ Sometimes they behave badly and say, ‘That wasn’t a good kid moment.’ It’s fine. We’re in it together.