Perspective and parenting

My daughter is spoiled. It isn’t even my fault. She is spoiled just like the majority of American kids are; just like the majority of American adults are. We can’t help it. We live in a very wealthy society, and so it is hard to be mindful and keep an outside perspective about how lucky you really are, and what the definition of the word need is. This is true even for those of us who have seen the poverty and strife of Afghanistan, Iraq, and similar conflict zones.

Well, I just got a very good reminder about how lucky we really are.

Travelling with a 2-year-old is hard. The only other option being to not travel at all, my wife and I recently took my kid out to San Diego for a family getaway, the highlight being the San Diego Zoo. This was a blast, but by the end of a long week, the jetlag and loss of routine had really weighed on us all, and we were ready to be home.

Sitting in the San Diego airport, my daughter was losing her mind. Again, she is 2, so what do you expect. Combine a garbage night’s sleep with airport boredom and airport food, and even the best kid devolves into a tiny, psychopathic lunatic. “You know we are very close to the border, and I hear they are taking kids. Maybe we can drop her off.” My ever-cool wife was feeling it too.

Suddenly, we are approached by a young man and his daughter, who seems to be around 7. They don’t speak English, but seem to be asking if they are at the proper gate. We take a look at their tickets, and help confirm that they are. At that point, I notice the ankle bracelet. Ankle bracelets for illegal aliens have grown more common in recent years as part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) designed to keep costs of detention low, and also help ensure illegal aliens attend adjudication hearings and court dates. It was easy to infer what was going on.

My wife immediately sprung into action. One of the things I admire about her, and tease her about endlessly, is her need to drop everything and help those in need. This is the woman that would bring stray cats home, keep them hidden in her closet, and care for them until her parents noticed. They still have some of those cats.

With Google translate in hand (which we found only does a semi-passable job), she immediately set about orienting the immigrants to the airport. She figured out they were Guatemalan, and were heading to Iowa. We helped them get on the flight on time, find their seats, and settle in. I don’t know anything about their journey or character, and only hope their lives are happy and that their cases are settled justly.

Throughout the whole experience, the little Guatemalan girl was cool, composed, and patient. She had clearly gone through much more than that in her life. My daughter was not. She doesn’t like to share, unless it is with her cousin of the same age, and then only when he won’t as to embarrass him in front of his parents. While my daughter was crying about which video to watch, and the fact that her banana “broke” (she took a bite), the other girl tried to make conversation, and was just happy to have the chance to watch anything.

At one point, desperate to appease our little tyrant, my wife took her on a walk and returned with two little owl trinkets. She had my daughter give one to the little girl, and keep one for herself. My daughter resisted this, of course, but the gift was ultimately given. I felt self-conscious, having no idea what the culture of gift-giving is like in Guatemala, and not wanting to offend or embarrass. But it was such a little thing for us, and hopefully it made the little girl’s day — so I’m sure it was harmless. I think that’s how my wife felt.

But the most eye-opening part of the whole moment was when we stood up to board the plane. The little girl tried to give back the trinket. Because of course we’d buy our crabby kid two identical toys to appease her. We are Americans, and we are rich (my wife and I are solidly in the middle of the middle class, for which we are lucky). I’ll never forget the little girl’s eyes when her father told her it was hers to keep.

Much, if not most, of this is attributable to my daughter’s age. My wife and I are trying hard to raise our daughter to be kind and value the immaterial more than simple things. I still felt self-conscious about my possessions, the way I often take for granted all that I am lucky enough to have, and for my daughter presenting us in a bad light.

I will try to keep that moment in my mind in the years ahead, and teach my daughter as best as I can about how lucky she is, and what truly matters in this life.

19 comments on “Perspective and parenting

  1. Great article Alex. Good perspective.

  2. I see that all the time , young tyrants coming off long flights from Disneyland .stark difference to the young ones coming from UN refugee camps . Don’t think I would call it spoiled though .

    • Tyler Jones

      It’s definitely true that its exhaustion hunger, and being a kid, it was just an interesting moment of perspective that really made me reflect.

  3. Great article. Encouraging sharing and being a good person is hard at such a young age. I think at times 2-3 years is a period that you just survive. I personally have left a cart full of things that we needed in Target and walked out, dragging a screaming toddler who went home for a nap and an extended time out. I’ve left the store where he was on the ground having a full blown tantrum (I stood outside the door where I could see him, but he couldn’t see me). And then there was the the walk of shame around Target when I made him apologize to people for yelling “got to take shit” when he was potty training. Now these are all funny stories, back then I always felt like I was banging my head against a wall.

    • Tyler Jones

      Wow those are some good ones… they really are like little insane people at that age. My wife read a piece by a former FBI hostage negotiator claiming toddlers are worse than criminals.

    • I have some of the same types of stories, Joy. I love to trot them out now that my children are well into their forties just to watch them squirm. The granddaughters loved to hear them. Walks of shame were a huge part of our discipline. I think it makes them more humble and less apt to repeat…but more able to apologize when they know they did wrong in the future. We also gave them the opportunity to burst with pride, too. Terrible twos…I remember them them well. lol

  4. Tyler-Because you care, your 2 year old will be fine. I was in the Atlanta airport yesterday for almost 8 hours. So I bought a day pass to the Delta lounge where I could have free food, drinks and quiet time. It’s interesting to watch the more privileged travelers. Mom and dad with two little kids playing video games on their individual iPads with Beats earphones. The electronic babysitter numbing little Jimmy and Susie’s minds so the parents could drink wine. Then there was the 20 year old with the little Yorkie “Anxiety Dog”. She was feeding it little bites of carrots because of course it was vegan. And it loves the little Biscoff cookies on the plane when it travels. Go figure, another twenty-something showed up in her expensive jogging suit with some sort of miniature bulldog. I’m wondering why little rich girls are so overly anxious. I was in Puerto Rico last week. I loved the joy and gratitude of little school kids there when we gave them a bunch of school supplies. They were ecstatic. I didn’t see a vegan Yorkie anxiety dog anywhere. Food for thought. Set an example like you are and your 2 year old will be a nice person.

    • Tyler Jones

      Thank you! That is really nice. We definitely do our best to be patient, validate her feelings (even when they don’t make sense) and stay engaged with her. Whenever she does watch movies or videos, she gets so zoned out. I hate it, so we do our best to minimize it.

      One of the coolest things I’ve done is volunteer wit some kids who’ve had muscular-skeletal development issues from a hospital my wife used to work at. Those kids were super tough and positive all the time – even doing things like learning to ski, which is hard for little kids with perfect health! Kids are so resilient and wonderful if you can be patient and involved.

      • I spent portions of my childhood in a hospital. One particular time at Children’s Medical Hospital in Dallas, I was across the hall from this little girl who was an absolute terror. She would scream and yell constantly. Her Mom screamed and yelled back quite often. Monkey see, Monkey do. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I befriended a little girl named Angie who was 5. I was 12. Angie was there for an inoperable brain tumor. Angie’s Mom had 4 other children and had to work during the week to pay bills. So my Mom and I adopted Angie during the week. The nurses would get her dressed and braid her hair then bring her too my room each day. We would play or just sit and nap together or if we felt like it go to the play room. She was an angel. Sweet and soft spoken, never got angry or upset that she was there alone. She was adored and cared for by the nurses and her face would light up when her Mom came. Her Mom was the same. Sweet, soft spoken. You could tell she hated leaving her daughter but it was the best she could do. I learned then at the ripe of old age of 12 that children watch and mimic the behavior of their parents.

  5. Tyler – your daughter will learn from your example .She may only be 2 but she’s learning by watching. Just keep setting the good example. One of my co-workers would get on the floor and throw a tantraum with his kids. Mortified, his kids, even at young age, learned very quickly that if you don’t want to be embarrassed by Dad, don’t throw a tantraum. Hahaha.

    • Tyler Jones

      That’s so funny- I’ll sometimes fake-whine when sh does it. Works sometimes. It always helps just to be patient – not my strong area but I’ve made a lot of progress! Thanks for your words!

  6. rynobucket

    Kids follow a parents lead… and you are leading the way, so it will work out fine! But it is a great reminder for us all of how much we have and how lucky we are.

    • Tyler Jones

      Thank you! Yes, it had been a while since I had a first hand reminder. Always good.

  7. What a lovely story, Tyler. Thank you for sharing. “You know we are very close to the border, and I hear they are taking kids. Maybe we can drop her off.” LOL.

    On a different subject, I am not able to “Like” anyone’s comments on this or other articles (it just says “Loading…” after each comment). Can anyone help?

    • Tyler Jones

      Yeah that is especially funny if you knew my wife…. she was at her limit. Concerning comments, there are a couple bugs with the latest WP update that we are working through. We are currently testing some plugins to solve this, so stay tuned, and please keep reading and commenting!

      • Oh, bless your wife. Everybody has their limits. And thank you for the update on the bug-fixing.

  8. Tyler-If you train your child to understand the word “no”, that will solve many frustrating times you can avoid, just by using the word. People “child proof” their home by removing items from coffee tables, Christmas ornaments off the bottom 4 feet of the tree, and spend a couple years chasing the kid begging them to stop whatever shit they are getting into instead of teaching them rules. Two year olds are smarter than us. I have years of experience dealing with them. I have grandkids that learned “no” and have a schedule. I have others that are monsters that run the show. No bed time. No sleeping in their own bed. No eating their vegetables. Amazingly, once the parents are gone, they behave like little angels. Grandma is in charge. They understand that. I’m actually the softie…….

  9. Yes, Tyler, compared to most children in most countries our children have a lot. I guess the key is to bring our children up to appreciate what we have, not to measure self-worth by material things, because they will always have friends with more or less than they have, and most of all to understand that they are fortunate to live in America. Toddlers are a bit too young to understand anything beyond “me and mine.” I can remember my kids in grade school, “mom will you buy me a 10-speed bike, everyone has one.” Geez, hon, I’m sorry, but your too young and everyone doesn’t have one because you and your sister don’t, and I’m willing to bet more than half your class doesn’t. Children do need to learn that they can’t have everything that they see one of their friends get and that somethings need to be earned. You and your wife have good values, compassion for others and you know first hand what a blessing it is to live in the USA. Your daughter will grow into a remarkable youngster, and adult.

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