Keeping our thoughts in the present.

Before leaving for a week-long cruise, my mother suggested that it would provide much fodder for this blog.  Little did I know how much more the “power of now” would be reinforced.
I truly do understand how people who are traveling without children are not impressed when other people’s kids show up.  I get it, I really do.  The few times James and I have traveled alone, free of the noise and insanity of our daily lives, the last thing we want is some little bugger kicking the back of our seats on a plane or screaming the entire trip.

However, the empathy we feel for their parents overrules all other feelings, unless of course, the parents are not doing everything they can to keep the children occupied.

The first few days of this cruise, one not ordinarily populated with children, was an exercise in patience.  We were travelling with two of our children and my brother’s family—so four adults and five children. Aside from being excited about traveling with their cousins, the children were extremely well behaved.  The four of us have similar parenting skills and expected the same level of behaviour from all of the children.  Their ages: nine, eight, seven and two six-year-olds. Easy!

I’m the first to admit that when James and I have all five of ours with us, it is bedlam.  But this past week with only the older children who have learned to respect others, it was so much easier and very pleasant.

Rarely did we have to remind the children to say please and thank you, to respect their elders or to put the elderly before themselves, even when not being treated very well by those same seniors.    We did have to remind them to slow down to avoid inadvertently tripping someone and to keep their voices down in the elevators, but that was the extent of their “inappropriate” behaviour.

For the most part, we had excellent interactions with the other passengers and the children were a source of joy for many.  However, there were “the others”, and I’ll give an example.

We arrived at the pool area and put our towels down on five empty seats.  This was not the adult or exclusive area, but one for the general public with an extremely loud, live band where it appeared fun was to be had by all.

The moment we arrived at our chairs, the lady sitting in the same row started shaking her head, shooting daggers at us with her eyes and promptly got up and moved in disgust.   Not that we weren’t grateful for the extra space but we were certainly insulted, especially since the kids hadn’t done anything—yet. As a matter of fact, they were huddled together under a towel playing their DSi’s , not even seeing the light of day for an hour before we forced them to play something else.

The big  epiphany for me was later that night when I couldn’t sleep. In my mind I was telling this lady what I thought of her rude behaviour. I also told her that she had ruined her own morning because of some perceived evil the children were going to inflict on her, which never came.  All by herself she had made herself miserable over nothing.  Had she stayed, she might have actually been impressed with their good behaviour and learned not to ruin her present moment because of something that might not happen.

I was so angry with her, so offended, making myself miserable over something that was long over and I could do nothing about.  Here I was ruining my own night over something I couldn’t change.  Although she was projecting an unpleasant future into her present, I was effectively doing the exact same thing by projecting the past into my present.   How ironic!

As soon as I realized the hypocrisy of my internal rant, I began to chuckle to myself and took a moment to give thanks for such a simple realization.

As we continued to cruise, there were other rude people who had no concern for the hurt they projected onto five innocent little kids who just wanted to have fun on their vacation.

The best we could do was to make it a learning opportunity by reinforcing the “Golden Rule” when interacting with others.  Patrick noted that if the seniors who were so rude hadn’t learned it by now, soon some of them would be in heaven and God would make sure they learned it then.  He was most sincere and showed no malice.

As we finished our last breakfast on board and were just about to debark, a sweet elderly man came over to our table and congratulated us on having such well-behaved and polite children.   He said he had spent the cruise observing us with them off and on and was always so impressed.

What a fantastic way to end a wonderful vacation–hearing from someone who also believed in the “golden rule” and who passed along another sweet lesson: Never miss a chance to tell someone something positive.

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4 Responses to Keeping our thoughts in the present.

  1. sandi says:

    give yourself a pat on the back!! Too bad that lady didn’t hear what the man said to you. :)

  2. That’s for sure. It’s easy to judge when we have not walked in someone else’s shoes. I guess we all need to learn to cut each other a break more often.

    I remember one Saturday morning when our family of five (2 adults, 3 kids under the age of 8) had gone out for breakfast at a typical family restaurant. The restaurant wasn’t terribly busy, and we were seated at a round table in the back section. One of the few other parties was a table of college students. We often took our kids out to eat with us, and always brought a bag of activities with us to keep them occupied. Our kids were well behaved, well occupied, well interacted with by Joe and me, and we often had people coming by our table to remark how well behaved they were. Our philosophy was: How can children learn how to behave in a restaurant – or anywhere else, for that matter – unless you take them with you and teach them?

    We were under scrutiny by the table of college students during our entire meal – scowling, daggers, rude comments made loud enough so we would be sure to hear, the whole 9 yards of disapproval over some perceived wrongdoing by our children – even though our kids were absolutely doing nothing wrong. They weren’t loud, they stayed occupied, they were well behaved. At one point, one of the college students said in a voice dripping with disdain, “Why would parents ever take their kids out to breakfast at a restaurant?”

    Although Joe and I had made a concerted effort to ignore the rudeness of the college students, I had had enough. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I knew I was going to do something! As we got up to leave, I walked over to their table, looked at each of the students in the face, and said in a firm (but fairly pleasant) manner, “We take our children out to breakfast at a restaurant so that they will learn to behave while eating out in a restaurant. Is that all right with you??”

    Stunned that I would actually say anything to them about THEIR behavior, each of them sheepishly and silently nodded. Sometimes you just have to put your foot down and make it a learning opportunity for others! :-)

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