Modeling understanding

People watching. It’s a national pastime. I was hanging out in Atlanta’s airport, killing the four hour delay I was experiencing. I’ve learned to deal with it. It’s a part of traveling and people watching fills the gap. Now it’s interesting to see the variety of people for sure, but what really captivates me is the interactions between people. Frustrations, anxiety and anticipation are pretty much standard fare in a large airport. But watching parents and their kids interact can be an amazing thing.

Do you recognize that the word “amazing” can have a duel meaning? Amazing good or amazing bad.

Case in point…

My flight was delayed for five hours. That story is reserved for another blog post. But this delay involved two broken planes and repeating the boarding process three separate times. Adults get bent out of shape with that kind of situation. Personally, I’d rather have them figure out the problem on the ground rather than at 30,000 feet, but kids under the age of five have a real challenge or, should I say, their parents have the real challenge.

Now I don’t know all the circumstances, but here’s a quick observation of two different families on the flight and how they addressed the situation with their kids. I’m not even saying one was right and one was all wrong. This is just a little observation filtered through my ant-sized brain.

The exasperation of one set of parents expressed in loud declarations of disgust aimed directly at people who probably couldn’t do anything about the situation telegraphed something about them. Everybody was watching, including me… that is, everyone except their two kids. They looked away and I think they were looking for a cave to crawl into or a place where they wouldn’t be associated with their parents. I don’t know if this was standard operating procedure in their family dynamic, but I suspect it may be. Perhaps this wasn’t a defining moment for their kids, but it was an incident put into the bank of their memories… that place they will eventually pull from to define their own actions in the future.

Again, I don’t know the circumstances or family background, but there was another family explaining to their son, who was maybe six or seven, why they had to get off the plane. Using language that made sense to a six year-old (and to me) why it’s a good idea to fix the problem on the ground. They had their son pulling for the mechanics to find the problem and they turned the time into an opportunity of finding good airport food, going on a treasure hunt and taking a nap.

Ok, it’s hard no matter who you are, but why do we make it harder? Kids thinking process is clay. It is hardening quickly. Seems to me the more negative situations that showcase our parental immaturity, the quicker soft clay turns into kiln dried pottery… the kind that breaks a little too easily.

Every problem we face, big or small, has the potential to define and give texture to our children’s futures, at least a piece of it. In fact, no situation in life is totally neutral. So, as parents, we’re given moments in the middle of problems to help our kids see what life, their life, can be all about. I had to ask myself, how did those parents help define life and future in the problem they faced? How would I do? How would you model understanding?


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