I was flying into Chicago on United Airlines shortly after they had completed their new terminal. The captain welcomed us to Chicago and “The New Terminal of Tomorrow.” He went on to explain that everyone who’s tried to catch a connecting flight out of there understands why it’s really called “The Terminal of Tomorrow” – because you might not get on your connecting flight till tomorrow!
I’ve often waited in the Chicago airport. It’s a very busy place and reminds me of my home: children’s parties, sleepovers, friends coming and going, neighbors calling, extended family dropping by. And there are the departures. The car just doesn’t stop. There are youth groups, lessons of all sorts, sports, school, church, errands to run, and children’s friends to pick up or drive home. Sound familiar? In the middle of all the flights in and out, once in a while I find a wonderful parenting moment with one of my fellow travelers.
The first time it happened, everyone had flown in and back out of “Osborne O’Hare,” and only my son and I were left. During the next few hours he had his agenda, and I had mine. However, in the middle of that time the two of us needed to sit down and eat a meal. What followed started with me pointing out that it was cool that it was just the two of us guys.
Then we decided to have some guy food and talked about guy things, and we even used some guy table manners (intentional oxymoron). We laughed a lot and afterwards headed back to our own tasks. The meal needed to be prepared anyway, but the time we had was memorable. I now watch for “home alone” moments. My son and I have our “guy time” every time the Osborne Terminal clears out, and I have special dad-and-daughter meals whenever I find myself alone with one of them.
“That wasn’t a polite thing to say.” “Say ‘please.’ ” “Don’t forget your thank you’s!” “And what do you say?” “We don’t do that at the table!”
There are points in our parenting career when it seems like every second or third sentence gets invested in the quest for mannerly children. We’ve all been embarrassed (and we have the stories!) by our children while they were learning manners. We’ve also all been proud when they got it right and some stranger has commented on what polite children we have. Have you ever had the tables, or the table manners, turned on you? I have.
When my children were younger, I spent time teaching them that kindness in intent and tone should be the rule that governs all of our speech. To remind them when their speech to one of their siblings strayed from the kindness rule, I would gently but pointedly add a storybook quote to the end of their speech. After they fired off, I’d instantly say, “-she [or he] said in a kind and gentle voice.”