Saturday, January 04, 2014

know it when you see it

For my first post of 2014, I'm digging back into my past for a story.  I am offering up a story that explains the gift of manners and respect I received from my Mom (I should give Dad some credit too but his lessons were often loud and so blunt so it wasn't always clear if there was some deeper message.)

Before I drop you into the story (actually being dropped isn't nice - hmm maybe I should ease you into the story) I must state that I've been told on occasion that I was being rude. So I have failed at manners. I'm no manners expert but I do respect people and try not to fail.

I also have failed many parents challenges over the years.  Our kids pushing me to the edge has reminded me of how difficult it is to maintain control in these situations.  Please understand I'm not judging the parents who I know nothing of their background in this story.

One thing I believe you'll agree about - bad parenting - you know it when you see it.

(one minor note - I wanted to use a picture of my own but how often do you take pictures of bad manners?  I found this attitude face on the internet somewhere. )

Summer 2005 - AA 2325 flight Chicago – Dallas Fort Worth – final destination Long Beach CA. As I work my way through another business trip which always has the potential of a small adventure, I decide to capture some thoughts of the trip. Since I was able to plan this trip, I selected a midday flight. I am not a morning person. I suspect many travelers like me judge a trip by the number of hassles encountered getting from A to B. So far it’s not been too bad. Plenty of backed-up traffic on I-294 and a filled up airport parking lot, but I anticipated that and allowed myself plenty of time.  (planning pays off the best when confronted by the unexpected) I got through security and even had time for a salad at Chili’s airport restaurant. Eating alone at an airport restaurant seems more accepted than eating alone most anywhere else.  

Row 25

My seat is in row 24, but in 25 is a young family. As I approach my seat I hear screaming and yelling. Two little girls with mom and dad are threatening my chance of a peaceful flight. The youngest and loudest one wants to play with her tray and doesn’t seem fazed by her mother’s threats. One interesting threat her mother shared with the passengers was “they have special seat in the back for children who misbehave.” She might as well told her they would strap her on the wing, she didn’t care.

Luckily I came prepared with a laptop filled with music. With all the electronic gadgets available hopefully other passengers were able to entertain themselves instead of listen to these unruly kids. The row 25 family had a DVD player for the kids. The three year-old I hear (all nearby passengers also discover this within seconds) does not want to share the view of the screen with her sister. 

Finally we landed and my hope of escape from row 25 is restored.  As we crowd the aisle waiting to deplane the kids were behind me. In this tight space bumping one another is common. So it didn’t surprise me that one of the girls bumped me a few times. It was not a big deal. What did surprise me was the mother’s response. She told her daughter that if she kept it up she would let the man (me) smack her. What a crazy thing to say. I later wondered if it was a ploy to sue me if I took her up on the offer.

My experience of traveling with a gaggle of kids has been both a joy and a terror.  Sleep schedules, skipped meals, delays, weather can overwhelm the best two year old and the rest of their family.

The one-who-knows (my wife) did a return international trip on her own with just the kids (I really had to stay - really for work). I don’t recall any crying or fussing from our kids on our long ride over to Ireland. Maybe I just don’t remember but I think the kids were excited enough about the trip that they just enjoyed the experience.  That's the key - enjoy the adventure.

Back in 1989, none of them even had CD players yet. The boom box was still popular (tape and radio) but those were not allowed in the aircraft cabin. The youngest was not 4 yet and the next oldest had just turned 9. They brought books and colored. Being an overseas flight we had music and some movies provided. But the movies shown on screens for the whole cabin don’t provide much to a little kid that could hardly see over the seatbacks.

Return trip different row
Long Beach airport – a new favorite for me. A fellow traveler pointed out as we walked across the tarmac, Long Beach airport is probably the only airport in the US with no Starbucks (anyone know if it does now?). The airport did have a coffee/snack stand.

For comparison to the early family there was family with two (maybe three – I don’t remember) young boys waiting to board the flight to Dallas. The youngest appeared to be about the same age as the young girl in row 25. They were probably closer in age than the row 25 set. The youngest boy came running through the gate area when his dad pointed out the plane. I think he was ready to run outside and jump on-board. Dad called to him to stop and he did. Unlike row 25 family, no yelling or threats were exchanged. Instead the dad seemed interested in answering his young son’s many questions. The difference in the parents’ attitudes of these families influenced the behavior of the kids. The Long Beach Dad appeared interested in making the most of what a trip can be for a young kid – a learning experience.

I'm no expert on teaching manners or discipline, but nonsensical threats only backfire. Kids learn quickly that threats are not backed by anything. You lose control at that point.

Change is constant with the technology in our daily lives. I wonder if the gadgets are used unsuccessfully to bribe kids. Disciplined kids however, I suspect come from techniques practiced since the beginning of families.

Share a comment - and thanks Mom, I think I get it now but it's still an effort to face down a tantrum.
(a few readers might remember this post - I revised it.)


longhollow said...

My mother warned me not to threaten anything I couldn't/wouldn't follow through with. I think that was one of the best pieces of parenting advice I received. We were big on reading and coloring to occupy my kids when they were small. Better than technology any day!

lisleman said...

That's very good advice. So many times we don't take the time to think first about our response. I have this problem of reacting too quickly. It seems some parents don't even try. Reading/coloring - no batteries to worry about. thanks

Joanne said...

I overheard Emily (15) say to Laura (12), Don't push Grandma to taking away privileges. Mom didn't mean it; Grandma does. Remember when I didn't have a computer for nine months?
Yes, it is all about involvement and consistency.
Not one of them has electronics; they read in the car. Except Laura, she gets carsick reading, so she looks out the window. We are one retro family!

Secret Agent Woman said...

Telling a kid a stranger will be allowed to hit them is nuts. I only ever "Threatened" my kids with things that I felt were reasonable consequences. Time outs, taking things away, etc. Never violence. But the nigger thing is paying attention to them in trying situations like plane rides. Mine took some very long trips at a young age and were fine. In particular, I remember my younger son at 9 tolerating a 36 trip involving four flights from Zanzibar to home. Even I felt like tantruming by the end of it, but we all maintained some semblance of sanity.

unknownmami said...

If I threaten my kids, you better believe it is with something I am willing to follow through on, they are no dummies.

lisleman said...

I suspect you seldom feel the need to resort to that. Kids certainly test the limits. The less you use the "tough stuff" the tougher it is.

lisleman said...

wow that is a long trip! I think the best approach is to think about your action to the problem but of course it is not easy to do. BTW, I believe your comment has an odd typo in it.

lisleman said...

Good that they picked up on your seriousness of punishment. Just from reading your blog I sense that you are not to be fooled around with. I got carsick reading in a car as an adult. Those kids have benefited from your parenting. thanks

Secret Agent Woman said...

Yikes! I typed that on my ipad, which lends itself to even more typos than my computer.

lisleman said...

No problem I knew it was a mistake. The 'b' and 'n' are next to each other on the keyboard.

Cheryl P. said...

Now that is an example of some really lousy parenting. What kind of idiot would tell a child that they would allow a stranger to hit them. I am always irritated by people that yell and threaten their children. There is a huge difference between constructive discipline and the screaming threats that will never be carried out ...and thank god as most of those threats are lashed out in anger and are ridiculous.

It makes me really happy to see good parents interacting with their well-behaved children.

lisleman said...

I agree. As you certainly know kids don't come with instructions and most people don't read instructions anyway.

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