About Dr. Vonda Scipio

I know how scary it is to be a brand new mom and have those awful feelings of
inadequacy.

There I was in the hospital room having given birth to my first child the day before. They had just brought her to me in a crib on wheels. The nurse left. As I watched her sleeping, anxious thoughts began to bombard my mind- will I be a good mother? What if I don’t know enough? I’ve never done this before. Suddenly, my thoughts were interrupted by her movement in the crib.

I froze and hoped her squirming would stop. I was afraid to pick her up and afraid to leave her there. Then, my anxiety turned into pure fear as she let out this incredible wail. I picked her up, hoping this would soothe her. She didn’t even look up at me. Tears began to stream down her face.

As I stood there, totally panicked, the words of my first mentor – my mom – echoed in my head; she’s probably hungry, wet, or sleepy. Try to give her a bottle, change her diaper or rock her to sleep. Getting in control of myself, I realized that my baby can’t be sleepy because she just awakened.  I thought she could be wet but the urgency of those cries indicated more.

So, she must be hungry!  My shaking, uncertain incompetent hand reached for the bottle lying in her crib and I placed the bottle into that quivering little mouth. She rejected it and cried even louder. My panic returned and I thought to myself, what do I do now? As her cries intensified, I forced myself to calm down and put the bottle into her mouth again. This time that little mouth stopped quivering and wrapped around the nipple of the bottle. I let out a sigh of relief, and may have even smiled a bit as I gazed down at my precious one. It was then that I realized that my mentor knew what she was talking about and had prepared me to meet the needs of my brand-new baby.

Fast forward 12 years. I am now a trainer of educators.

There I was on a Wednesday morning before a group of 25 teachers delivering a workshop on parent involvement. Before the session started, I overheard the teachers voicing frustration about the disengagement of so many parents.

Then, I asked the group to think back to their earliest days as a teacher and how competent they felt on their first day in front of students.  They shared how their degrees, trainings, and professional development sessions had not adequately prepared them for the real-world classroom experience. They thought back and were all in agreement that in those first weeks and months as a new teacher they all felt totally incompetent.

I then sprung an unexpected question: How do parents feel when they bring their new baby home? Shocked silence fell over the room. They had suddenly made the connection – one that had negatively influenced their attitude towards parents for years – that those feelings of inadequacy were a common bond between teachers and parents.

The teachers became galvanized and we spent the rest of the session brainstorming exciting and innovative strategies to achieve higher levels of parent involvement in their school.  For perhaps the first time, these teachers saw the powerful partnership possibilities they could have with those new parents.

 Fast forward 12 more years.

I was an early intervention specialist working in homes with parents as they help their children develop and had just been assigned one of my very first cases.

I pulled up into the driveway and that same wave of fear, incompetence, and insecurity that I experienced as a new mother in that hospital room washed over me again. I had become a very competent mother for my own child, but I wasn’t sure I could help this young, inexperienced mother. My feet felt heavy as I knocked on the door.

A pleasant-looking, but weary young woman opened the door. As we made eye-contact, I noticed the frustration, fear, and anxiety of parenting a toddler. I barely had time to get to know her when from behind the door, I heard noises of toys being moved, loud footsteps barreling down the hall, and so many shouts that it sounded like two toddlers. It was chaos and he was in charge!  I sat this young mother down on her sofa and all kinds of encouragement and strategies began coming forth. As we talked I could see the light come back into her eyes, she visibly relaxed on the sofa and even ventured a smile!

I continued to work with her over the next year and was thrilled to see her transformation from a frustrated, anxious and fearful mom to a proud mother who had become confident, calm and fearless.

Over time, I had become a mentor for parents and teachers.  I realized I could be a mentoring bridge between parents, children, and teachers so that – on all sides – both parents and teachers can do what they’re here to do: help each other to develop wonderful children!