I had an amazing experience yesterday.
From the outside it might have looked like I’d had a bit of a disaster, because quite a few things went wrong. Not least of which was running out of petrol in the outside lane of the M25. With 2 children in the car. At rush hour. With the motorway closed in front of us, and many miles of tailback behind us. We had to wait six hours for the breakdown truck, and another two hours to get home, which we did at 1.30 in the morning.
What made the day amazing was how my children and I coped with it, and how the kindness and support of a few strangers made us feel connected and alive.
I am truly amazed by how my children dealt with the situation yesterday (Harvey is 9 and Jasmine is 7 on Monday. Luckily Zach, 4, was with my husband). They tried to be calm when it was very scary, hopeful when everything seemed doomed and appreciative of the positives when our spirits started to fade. We talked about feeling grateful that we weren’t the ones who were involved in the crash, or we hadn’t lost someone we loved.* We reminded ourselves that we were warm enough in the car, and had enough to eat and drink for the next few hours. We had our books to read, we talked about the trucks and cars inching past, and we remembered our day at Thorpe Park. We said hello to sheep stuck in trailers and wished the sedated horses a speedier journey home. We picked blackberries, buried acorns and watched the sunset.
One converstation epitimised our attitude throughout the whole experience. We watched a man in a big truck get angry, beeping and shouting at a car infront of him. He wanted to change lanes and was infuriated that the silver saloon infront of him wasn’t getting out of his way.
Me: ‘Oh, look that man is getting a bit angry isn’t he?’
Harvey: ‘He’s getting angry because he’s been stuck in traffic for four hours.’
Me: ‘But we’ve been stuck in traffic for four hours too and we’re not angry.’
Harvey: ‘Oh, but we know that there’s no point in getting angry about it.’
Those of you who have been reading this blog will know that we’ve been focussing on gratitude as part of our Family Project this last month or so. I have no idea whether our daily gratitude habits have made the difference but I can’t help thinking that two months ago, none of us would have dealt with things in the same way. Can spending a month focussing on gratitude really change the way people (especially children) deal with difficult situations?
I know that if I hadn’t been calm and positive, the children would most probably taken their cues from me, and I am proud that I was a good role model yesterday (particularly because it doesn’t always happen!). But as most parents know, even when we are managing to be good role models, our children don’t always oblige by copying us.
What I do know is that Harvey and Jasmine seem to be two different children to the ones we took on holiday two months ago. If it was because of our Family Project that makes me really proud. If it’s because of their personalities and charactor I’m also really proud. Either way, it seems that I’m managing to get at least some of my parenting (or genetics) right. And this gives me hope that I haven’t completely damaged them with the many mistakes I do make. It’s a message to all of us to keep trying, keep learning, keep doing the best we can in this crazy challenge called parenting.
*The rumour on the road was that someone had died when an articulated lorry crossed the central reservation, but the news today did not mention it, so I am hoping that all involved will be ok.