There are times in my parenting pilgrimage ‒ those scarce moments when I’m not providing snacks, band-aiding, or keeping them from losing and/or breaking an extremity ‒ when I find myself on the other side of the parenting equation. Meaning, for a moment I take a backseat to all the teaching, protecting, or providing wisdom; and my own children begin schooling me to the game. I’ve probably had more of these moments than perhaps I should share, but whenever they do happen, I know I should sit up, pay attention, and perhaps ask them for a snack while the moment lasts.
Last week, we were on our way to visit family in California and celebrate our daughter’s birthday as well as her nearing start to kindergarten. On the first flight, we ended up getting seated in the back of a stuffy plane. I’m going to stop and openly admit, my attitude was not good on this particular leg of the trip being as it was an early morning flight.
I chugged half of a lukewarm coffee (the other half was spilled by my eerily agile 2-year-old) and geared up to thwart tantrums, snack attacks, and varying wayward toddler emotions as we settled in for the flight. Once we were comfortably (comfortably?) at cruising altitude, I realized I was spookily relaxed. No requests from the children? No climbing all over me in haste? No questions about the scary airplane information brochure about crash landings? Nothing.
I looked over at my daughter, who was sitting in the aisle seat, and I noticed she was talking to another child across the aisle. They were having a lively conversation; laughing, shaking hands, and it appeared like they knew each other. I smiled and sat back in my seat thinking it wasn’t uncommon to know someone on a flight out of Sioux Falls. About an hour passed and the plane had quieted enough where I could actually hear some of their adorable school-age conversation. I poked my daughter at one point because they seemed to be getting on so well, and I asked her how she knew the little boy, and she said, “I just met him on this plane, Mommy!” Fascinated and my attitude quickly changing, I listened with even more interest to see what was so captivating about their conversation for both of them to be carrying on with each other in the midst of a time where both sets of parents were probably more than willing to break all “screen time” rules to keep silence on the plane.
As I listened, what I heard from those two 5-year-olds went straight to the core of my being. Over the course of about an hour or more, they covered many topics. They discussed their interests (favorite colors, favorite animals, favorite food, best place to swim, etc.), they told each other jokes and laughed until they were snorting, they asked each other questions and they really wanted to know the answer. They… well… they actually listened to one another.
At one point in the conversation, they were disagreeing about where was the best place to live. My daughter poignantly asked the little boy, “OK, why do you think Colorado is the best place to live? I think South Dakota is the best.” The little boy politely replied with a slew of reasons why he thought Colorado was tops and then asked her why she thought South Dakota was the best. In the end, they both agreed to disagree. They moved on and began to discuss other things. They continued their beautiful dialogue until the little boy said, “Okay, I’m going to play a game for a little while.” To which my daughter replied, “Okay, I’ll watch a movie.” And that was the end of the conversation for the time being. When we were deplaning, they talked about what each one was doing on their vacation and that they hoped they would see each other on the beach. They shouted a dozen good-byes to each other, and that was the end. We will most likely never see that boy again. But, I will always remember him and the conversation he had with my daughter.
In fact, at one point, I started to take a video of their conversation. Not to be creepy, weird lady mom, but because I wanted to remember that moment. Truthfully, I just wanted to bottle up the entire essence of their whole interaction. It brought back to me what it is like to see a conversation between people with unadulterated childlike kindness, innocence, and purity. It so struck me that they really listened to one another in a time and age where real human interaction is becoming somewhat of a relic of civilization. They were from different cities, different races, different interests, yet they saw or felt none of that. They just saw another kid, another human, and sincerely wanted to know one another. And they did so with such respect.
As my daughter marches off to kindergarten this week, I am feeling “all the feels”. I cried in the school supply section as I leaned over a bin of purple glue sticks my 2-year-old mistook as popsicles. I felt irrationally jealous when I received the name of her teacher, knowing she would now spend more time with her during the day than me. B
But after our trip, I had a surge of excitement for her as she starts her school career. Since she was born, I’ve been praying that my daughter would be confident, kind, and that she would know, without a shadow of a doubt, she is loved. I know when she goes off to school she will have many more social encounters and she will often get a front row seat to some of the ugliness this world has to offer and ‒ let’s be honest ‒ at times, she will be the one displaying it. But, when I saw her interacting with that little boy on the plane, I knew she was going to have beautiful interactions like that again. She will have a front row seat to the effervescent beauty of kindness and love, and I just pray that she (and her mother, while we’re at it) will continue to be the one offering it.