October 4, 2012 by talkaboutyork
I am sitting in a cafe, sipping peppermint tea. I’m here for a reason. I’m doing homework. I’ve signed up to do a writing course and today’s assignments require me to observe people and try to capture their body language. It’s been fun, although I’ve got a few odd looks from the people I’ve been examining.
One of the people I am studying is a small boy, about four. He is sitting with his parents and three brothers, the oldest of whom must be about nine. My first thought when I saw them walk in was, ‘Good Lord! Four boys. I wonder how much wine their mother drinks each night.’
But as their lunch has progressed, I’ve been amazed and entranced in equal measure at their impeccable behaviour.
The smallest boy, the one I was examining and the one most likely to run amok, has sat still throughout. At the start, he ‘sat’ on his knees so that his elbows could reach the table as he reached towards his older brother. They were playing a game of Blink, where you have to stare into each others’ eyes and see who can avoid blinking first. He raised his eyebrows higher and higher in a desperate attempt to not blink, leaning closer and closer to his brother. Despite getting right in his face, there was no aggression.
Before long, the entire family was playing, a picture of family bliss. There was a genuine feeling of love and affection between them. No bickering. No parents trying to have their own conversation or looking at phones. Just proper quality time together. Their food arrived. Like most children, they didn’t finish all their food, but they ate calmly with reasonably good manners (forks are over rated in my opinion). There was not a single raised word among any of them, nor from the parents. When one of the children had had enough, he offered his food to his brothers.
Then the youngest boy knocked his empty drink glass over with a clatter. There was a quiet pause. ‘I’m sorry mummy,’ he said. ‘I was sitting sensibly.’ Bless.
His dad said, ‘No harm done, nothing was spilt.’ The mum said, ‘I can see you were sitting well but it’s a good lesson about what can happen if we don’t sit sensibly.’ No yelling. No sharp intake of breath. No stern grimaces. Just calm, gentle parenting.
Even now that they’re at the end of their meal and the children are getting restless, the way small boys do, they are playing quietly with each other, with the odd whispered ‘Boys, sit down’ from the dad.
I have watched them in fascination. They always say that children are a reflection of their parents. It’s so easy to see how these boys are calm because their parents are calm. Or perhaps it’s because there are four of them and they have just learnt that they have to all rub along or there will be chaos. Either way, it’s left me feeling as though I must try harder to be a calm, serene mother and to really BE with my boys when I’m with then.
As they stood to leave, the mum reached for her bag lying next to my table. I said to her, ‘What beautifully behaved boys you have.’ She looked at me with incredulity on her face.
‘Are you serious?’ she asked in utter disbelief.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I have two boys and they rarely sit that still or eat as well as yours did. By now they’d be running riot. You must be doing something right.’
‘I guess they did sit still, although they’re getting restless now,’ she said in that awkward British way of trying to divert a compliment. ‘But thank you.’ She turned and got their various coats together.
Then she turned back to me and said with actual tears in her eyes, ‘Thank you for saying that. It’s so nice to get some positive feedback. It’s really kind of you to say.’
I wanted to tell her that actually I was writing a blog post about her and her lovely family and that I’d take her parenting example away with me and try to replicate it. But I figured she’d think I was some kind of weird stalker.
I hope she goes away with a spring in her step and I shall go away thankful for the reminder to behave the way I want my children to behave.
What’s more, when I think that my children are playing up in the future, I will remember to look at it from a stranger’s point of view. Because us parents are our own worst critics. Sometimes we’re actually doing a great job, and just don’t realise it.