do over…(airplane style) or, “they were so good!”

September 27, 2009 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment

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Xi, Echo, and I just got off an airplane. The girls had had plenty of food, water, sleep, and entertainment, so we were fortunate, they had a good time. Inevitably we received that particular comment that makes me squirm: “Oh your girls were so good!”

I feel squrimy about it because the girls are good people no matter what kind of experience they have on an airplane. So I wonder what that person means. Does she mean they were quiet? Does she mean she wasn’t too bothered by my parenting style?

A do over of this interaction, for me, would include talking about the feelings that fellow traveler was having.

What if she said: Oh I feel so grateful that your kids were content. I feel so anxious when I hear children crying. I am happy that everyone had a good time!

or: I feel so relieved that your children were quiet. I am so nervous when I am on a plane and I was worried that their noises would make me feel more agitated.

or: I feel so great being around children so I am so happy that the girls were entertained. It gave me an opportunity to watch and enjoy them.

or: I feel really terrible when I see people parenting poorly, so I was happy to see that we agree on how to treat children.

even if they said: I am so glad your kids kept their mouths shut! I’ve had a hard day and loud, upset kids is the last thing I needed. 

I would even appreciate the last version. I want real conversations that reflect the particulars of each person’s perspective and the feelings that come with it. I want the girls to know they are good people even if they feel upset on an airplane. I want them to know that all there ever is feelings and reactions.

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cut and paste empathy i feel… love

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