Yesterday I took the boys to a local cafe with my friend and her two children. It was great; we chatted, the kids ran around close by and we all had a good dose of sugar! We were sat outside, it was fairly busy and at one point a group with two babies in pushchairs came and sat close by. Being a people watcher I tend to be pretty aware of the mood of those around me, so when my two-and-a-half year old god-daughter brushed past one of the buggies giving it a very slight knock, I noticed the mother bristle. Not long afterwards Callum approached the other baby with this group who looked around 10 months old, with the intent of making himself known to her! He loves babies and enjoys stroking their hair and hands...he can have a tendency to get a bit too rough in his excitement, so I made sure I was close by. The group made it clear they didn't want him near the baby, so I took him away. A little while later he tried again, and the mother turned the buggy away from him.
Callum wasn't bothered, I felt hurt. I couldn't help thinking "C'mon, these are small children, just smile and tell him your baby doesn't want to say hello today....maybe turn to the toddler who has knocked into your buggy and see if they are ok". I felt that our toddlers were being seen as careless, boisterous or out to hurt other children and I know that's not the case, then I realised that I was being unfair to these other people too. Maybe that mother was exhausted and had just managed to settle her child when they were knocked. Perhaps the parents of the other baby knew she was nervous around bigger children, or perhaps they were feeling particularly anxious that day. It doesn't matter, the point is that I have a choice how I perceive things, and I can choose what to focus on.
When I'm out with the boys and Joseph asks why a stranger has acted in a certain way I try to give him a sense that people act with good intent...we all know that not everyone does all of the time, but I don't think it will serve them well to hold this belief as a default setting. When you look for goodness, that's what you see. It seems to have rubbed off; Ollie told me that he was walking to the shops with Joseph and had a moan about some dog poo that someone had failed to clean up when Joseph said "Maybe they didn't have any bags with them, or maybe they were in a rush!" Just another lesson that son had for father that day!
When we were ready to leave the cafe yesterday Callum was having fun running into and out of the shop, and I went in to get him. He was climbing on the chairs near to a young chap (probably around 19) who was sat waiting for his girlfriend to finish work and seemed to be enjoying watching Callum who, grubby and sticky after a cupcake, climbed from his chair onto the young man's lap. I apologised and commented on how much he likes to make friends. The young man smiled and said "Thats ok, he's really cute" and gave him a wave as I led him out of the shop, not even glancing down to see what a mess Callum had made of his chino shorts! Goodness everywhere :)
I'm glad I had that moment of feeling hurt at the cafe yesterday; I don't think I'd have appreciated how kind the young man was otherwise. I often tell a story about a day when Joseph was only a couple of months old and I was breastfeeding him on a bench in the middle of town. It had been a challenging day and I was feeling vulnerable when a lady approached and said "He's a lucky baby, and you're a good mum." I managed to mutter a "Thank You" as I welled up in gratitude, but I wish I knew who she was so I could thank her again for her kindness in my moment of need! I often think about her and feel grateful, even now 4 years on. It can be a challenge to see these people some days, but they are always there.
Someone once suggested that if I don't send my boys to school and allow them to be surrounded by bullies or people who may be unkind to them then they will be ill-prepared for life. I believe they'll be best prepared for all life might throw at them if they can seek out goodness and focus on it, regardless of whether they are at school.
I know I'm getting older because when I thought about that young man at the cafe afterwards it wasn't about how good-looking he was, (although obviously I noticed that at the time!) I just thought "I hope my boys grow up like you....your mum must be proud!!" :-)