This past month over school holidays, I experienced one of the most unbelievable revelations in my short career as a parent. While vacationing at a family hotel at a ski resort, I met a woman with two daughters around the same age my children. She came over to me during breakfast one morning and said to me, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to let you know, I have been using your boys as an example to my daughters for the past few days. Your boys are so well-behaved!”
“Excuse me?” I said, nearly choking on my coffee. I looked at my sons sitting at the table across from me. My older son was methodically eating as many pieces of bacon he could fit in his mouth before his father and I stopped the bacon party. My younger son was sampling various pastry items from the breadbasket on our table. (And by sampling, I mean taking single bites of each one thereby rendering each pastry inedible due to sticky hands and saliva.) But they were sitting at the table quietly, and while the woman had not noticed their eating habits, she had noticed the quiet.
“Look at the way they sit with you and are not running around everywhere. And not an iPhone in sight! I’ve been pointing to the boys the past few mornings so my girls would sit still!” She was so impressed with our unintentional display of “good parenting,” that she almost had me convinced it was something that I did right.
Of course the truth of the matter is, she caught us at a “good” moment. When the boys were just hungry and tired enough to be able to sit still for a short period of time; when the food was to their liking enough that they weren’t throwing it across the table; and when they’d forgotten long enough about the iPhone not to be whining for it incessantly.
I have sat in restaurants and walked through parks and peered on other well-behaved children with envy, wondering what it is that their parents are doing so right that I am doing so wrong. And the day that the woman came over to me at breakfast to compliment my children’s manners, I was struck with the revelation that perhaps none of us really know what we’re doing. Those well-behaved children are another parents’ today, but might be yours or my kids tomorrow. And just like that kid in the supermarket throwing the tantrum today might be your kid tomorrow, I know that when my kids are the well-behaved ones, it’s not time to gloat.
So keep up the good work parents, and don’t envy anyone else. We’re all doing the best we can!