Wednesday, January 5, 2011

a lesson over burgers

While in a meeting for work today, we were reading an excerpt from a book called Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire.  I was underlining phrases to bring up for discussion and one of the lines I marked was, 'expectations for children are often ridiculously low'.  When it was time to share our thoughts, I cautiously skirted this statement, as my personal feelings and consent to the aforementioned might cause people to become defensive.  In my career, no one wants to be associated with having 'low expectations'.  I, especially fall into this category. 

However, I thought about why I underlined the statement, and realized my 'gut instinct' had very little, if any, to do with academics, as was the potential intent of the author.  Sure, I know there are debates and discussions out there about the performance of American students compared to those students in other countries...but I'm not qualified nor knowledgeable enough to get into that conversation now.  No...the reason I underlined this text was because I was thinking about my own children, and the expectations that Randy and I have for them.  Being younger than school age, our expectations focus on behavior, manners, and the 'basic' knowledge they need to acquiring in the few years they've been around here on Earth.  I have witnessed a variety of behaviors and levels of respect that run the gamut from outstanding to embarassing during the years I've spent in my career, and just like all parents, I want my children to fall on the 'good' side of that scale.

At the risk of sounding pretentious, Randy and I have often been told how 'good' and 'well behaved' our children are.  We spend a lot of time making sure our children know the expectations we have for them, not just in public, but at home too.  I have often said that I'd rather my kids misbehave for us, and be angels for everyone else.  But really, when you think about it...who wants to have bratty kids living under the same roof as them?  Not us!  So I guess I need to re-evaluate that statement.  Ideally, I'd like our children to be angels all of the time...but they're kids.  They're going to make mistakes, be silly, get bored, get irritated, fight with each other, and whine.  But they're kids.  So, as long as they realize what they need to change about their behavior, and try harder the next time, that's all we can really ask.  There.  That sounds a little more realistic.

One of many challenges that comes with parenting is to maintain your cool, even when you want to show your ugly side.  Sure, we all fall victim to our weaknesses and find ourselves using a tone/volume/language we know we shouldn't.  We're human.  Just like 'kids are kids', we're human.  It's acknowledging your faults and trying harder the next time (sound familiar?).  The problem is when we show the 'not-so-nice' side of mommy or daddy, we realize we're not performing to the best of our ability as parents.  It's our job to set a positive example for our kids.  This doesn't just go for parents, but all adults.  We learn by example.  (Hence my lack of ability to give anyone a good 'recipe' for marinara...I never learned by recipe, I learned by doing.)  I'm not saying anything new here...just some musings that relate to the events that took place tonight.

One aspect of our home life that I value, and in turn want my children to value, is dinner at the table as a family.  I like to make it a point that we do this 'tradition' whenever possible. (Sidebar: isn't it sad that dinner as a family is becoming viewed more of a 'traditon' than a 'norm'?  I use 'tradition' for lack of a better word...I mean tradition in the sense that families are eating dinner less often as a family, and therefore it becomes a 'big deal' to do so...when it should just be one of the things you just do).  Anyhow, we use the family table as a time to work on manners, have discussions, and just enjoy each other (and food).  But of course, dinner at the table doesn't always happen, and that just happened to be tonight's situation.  The kids enjoy this little 'out of the ordinary' treat, as it happens about once a month, generally on nights when it's just the kids and me. 

And so, after daycare, I told the kids we were having 'picnic dinner'.  They were very excited because, as I mentioned before, it's a treat.  So, they opted for cheeseburgers, 'fwench fwies', and 'catch-ub'.  They of course wanted a fun toy in the kid's meal too, so I investigated quickly on my iphone (thank you technology making parenting slightly easier at times!), and found that Burger King was promoting Gulliver's Travels...anything promoting the hilarious Jack Black is ok with me! (well...that and the fact that I just happen to adore strawberry shakes from BK!)

We were in the drive-thru, placed our order and pulled forward to the second window.  The kids were in the backseat, watching the staff gather their order, and I was handing over my debit card.  The woman at the window handed it back to me, and so I turned to place the card back into my wallet.  All the sudden I hear a voice (with an extremely annoyed and quite rude tone) saying, "here." as she thrust two bottles of milk through her little 'portal of importance'.  My inital reaction wasn't the nicest...because I have a little 'east coast' personality in me and tend not to just turn the other cheek.  I may have grown up near the Amish, but I'm far more 'city' than 'country' at heart.  But, thankfully I held my tongue and didn't say anything.  My kids, on the other hand...

You know that saying 'it's not what you say, but how you say it'?  I do.  My mom said it to me on a daily basis (heck, hourly during my teenage years).  Now that I'm a mom, I've found myself saying that to Gavin from time to time, and well, tonight...he got it.  He heard the lady's rude tone, registered it as such in his darling little brain, saw that I was pre-occupied, and responded with, "she'll be with you in a minute!".  Now I know you could interpret this phrase with a variety of different tones and therefore meanings, so I'll describe it for you.  He didn't have a rude tone, he was calmly and politely this disgruntled 'fry girl' that she needed to be patient.  Within this split-second interaction, my card had found its home in my wallet and I had turned my  attention to the window.  Just in time to see a glare in the direction of my back seat.  Well.  That was enough for me.  You mess with my kids, and momma bear ain't happy.  It was all of me to maintain my 'good example' and smile politely, calmly take the bottles from her hand, and wait for the rest of my order. 

The only reason I didn't say anything to her was because I saw a 'manager-type' person standing behind her with bags in hand.  My assumptions were correct as he replaced 'Miss Happy' and handed me our dinner.  He asked me how I was doing this evening, and my window of opportunity opened.  I explained that I was doing well, however I was a little disappointed with the quality of service we had just received from his employee, and after prompting I explained the situation.  It might have seemed silly to some (even this manager) to hear the story, however I wanted him to know that even though they're in the business of burgers, that customer service (i.e. respect) is just as important to people as the quality of their mediocre food (I left out the 'mediocre' part for Mr. Large and In Charge).  My goal wasn't to get any 'perks'--and good thing, because his goal was definitely not to hand any out.  One might think that the quality of his customer service may very well need to be increased as well...because, after all, isn't the saying "the customer is always right"? 

So what did I learn from this?  Well...I guess we must be doing something right.  Despite the times I might not show 'my best side' to my kids, they do pick up on the good things.  And they are developing character.  My expectations for them are high, have always been high, and always will be high.  Perhaps 'little miss BK' and her manager will realize that perhaps its the expectations for their own 'behavior' that needs a little re-evaluation. 

'Example is not the main thing in influencing others.  It's the only thing.'  Thank you, Gavin for (hopefully) being an influence tonight.

(we're obviously still working on how to use a napkin while eating!)

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