What WE can learn from our kids

By Amy Ransom on October 29, 2013 , 1 Comment

I have become one of those people I used to hate.

You know the ones.  The ones who take their children on rush hour trains.  And let them have an entire seat to themselves while full-fare paying customers are forced to stand.

I used to wonder who these morons were.  I mean, who would choose to travel in rush hour with a small person when they can clearly get one of those lovely off-peak after 9.30 AM jobbies.

Well, now I know.  They are working mums of school children.  And I am one of them.

Yes, that is how I found myself this morning, sitting on the oh so quiet 8.17 with Beaver swinging her legs on the seat next to me.  In a bid to solve today’s half-term childcare dilemma.

In my defence, I wasn’t going to let her have her own seat.  But she made a beeline for the last two by the window and when I suggested she sit on my lap, she gave me ‘the look.’  It came down to this.  Risk the wrath of Beaver or risk the judgement of fellow commuters.  Commuters I can handle.  Beaver?  Well…

You don’t appreciate how quiet a rush hour train is until you take a 4 year old on one with you.  Or how miserable everyone seems.  Myself included.

But today I couldn’t be my usual, socially acceptable train ‘self.’  I had to engage with Beaver and defy all that commuter etiquette we unwittingly fall into.  The etiquette that means we barely acknowledge each other’s existence.

So I watched Beaver put on lip gloss.  And count her money including a random Norwegian Krone.  We played ‘I Spy’ several times.  Only when Beaver started spying people’s clothes, worried about what she might spy next, did I suggest we play Doodlebuddy on my phone.  Several times Beaver tried, unsuccessfully, to engage people around her.  You’ve got to admire a commuter’s composure.  Beaver is not easy to ignore.

I get it, I really do.  Who feels particularly cheery on their way to work?  But actually my journey today was a million times more fun than it usually is.  For having cheerful Beaver with me and her natural lack of social awareness that meant I had to be cheerful too.

And it made me think what a shame it is that as we grow older our sociability gets knocked out of us.  We forget simple things that come so naturally to a child, like smiling at a stranger or talking to someone we don’t know.  If you’ve ever got in a lift and stared awkwardly at the ceiling or played nervously with your phone, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The thing is, those things can really make a difference to our days.  Especially if we’re having a bad one.  It’s the kindness of strangers we sometimes need most.

And I want Beaver to keep that kindness, that she already has in spades.  So next time I insist she ‘behaves’ or speaks more quietly, I’m going to think this.  Is this a situation where she really needs to behave or am I just falling into the social conditioning trap?

After all kids are kids.  And we could learn a lot from them.  If we let ourselves.

Plus, I can’t think of a better reason for excusing ‘bad’ behaviour.

Footnote: to the people who thought I was taking Beaver to work with me, you really made me laugh.  I was in fact doing a drop off at Waterloo so Beaver could meet her grandparents.  The new me is a cheerful commuter not a sadist.

Surviving Motherhood Tip#14 – how to ‘do’ train etiquette

  1. Align yourself perfectly with the train doors every time.
  2. Shove your way on. Pregnant women are fair game. So are children. None of that ‘women and children first’ rubbish here.
  3. If male, sit with your legs as wide as possible. If female apply make-up, preferably bronzer.
  4. Avoid ALL eye contact.


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    One thought on “What WE can learn from our kids

    1. Youshouldknowwho

      Take your kids to live abroad. In Mexico it’s considered rude not to chat to people in the lift. In Japan, politeness is an art form, in every social interaction. Even in NYC, the subway is often full of street performers (on the trains, not just on the platforms). In China, kids are the centre of everything (since there are so few of them (relatively speaking). So get out of Little England. You’ll find a whole new way of looking at the world.


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