During the last three years I’ve reverted to Facebook when I feel the need to write. I know the people on this social media outlet (the only one I use) and it’s my comfort zone. When I returned home from work this afternoon I thought, “Why go there?” I mean I have to get this Blog off the ground eventually, right? Besides, when I feel it’s ready to launch and announce to my friends I can simply share a link to these musings directly. So here’s me, venturing out
I have worked in the food service industry for an array of reasons since I turned fourteen and became old enough to work. In an effort to offer strangers an idea of how many years this encompasses, I celebrated my forty-second birthday in January. Yes, twenty-eight years folks
Unfortunately, many individuals view wait staff as uneducated. They see us as lazy or as “settling”. While this may be true for some, it isn’t for me. There is no diploma from college hanging upon my wall, yet I’m intelligent. I work all the time, sunrise to sunset, because I am a single mother. Perhaps I settled, but given my circumstances, it meant more to me to feed my children than it did to search for titled status.
Seventeen of my twenty-eight years in this business have been at my current job. Highs and lows and changes and plateaus. I open the door and actually breathe a sigh of relief; this is rent, this is meals to eat. It’s car insurance and it’s family entertainment. I’m thankful to be employed. Alas, decades in this type of work can wear down even the most steadfast. Everyone has someplace to go and their poor time management becomes your fault. There are less manners and more demands. Less gratitude and more complaints. Here is where I touch on my issue today…
When I first began at my job we gave individual children placemats and crayons. me’re a family-friendly establishment. We strive to learn the names of sons and of granddaughters. We attempt to connect with uncles and aunts and caregivers and nannies. We recognize disabilities and try to protect these little humans from judgement. We want all of them to feel special.
A couple years ago our company decided to forge a new idea; the family activity mat. The paper is huge! There are all sorts of activities; word searches and tic-tac-toe and hidden words and wrong item drawings. In my biased opinion, they’re terrific. The notion is a family of four receives one mat for everyone to be involved with. A family of six would have two mats. Throughout the last six months I hear this statement almost daily: “We need one mat and crayons per kid. Oh you know, our kids don’t like to/can’t seem to share.”
Since when can’t kids share? Sure, no kid likes to, but does that mean we aren’t supposed to teach them how? Won’t they, at some point in their lives, have to share responsibility for a class project? What about sharing a dorm room at college? Will they not share meals with a partner eventually? Is it appropriate to believe they’ll know how to share hours with their own kids someday? Why does it seem parents are no longer teaching this skill?
If your child has a total meltdown over a piece of paper, let it happen. Explain why they need to learn to take turns and how to lose a game with dignity. Illustrate how this simple lesson will assist them in years to come, and use every moment we’re given as parents to teach life lessons.
And don’t be embarrassed. Children are not born with the ability to regulate emotions. This is a learned behavior. They must experience frustration and anger and sadness and everything else within our bodies we deal with as adults. It’s crucial to do so while they are still young enough for outbursts to be socially acceptable. Otherwise, they will look silly stomping their feet when they aren’t crowned Homecoming King or they don’t find accolades for their latest Snap Chat story.
I own the mistakes I’ve made in rearing my kids. When my three year old screamed for a lollipop at seven o’clock at night for thirty minutes I gave in. I was exhausted. We parents live exhaustion. However, when my four year old threw a drink in public because his sibling appeared to have more French fries, we sat outside until common sense returned. If they weren’t in the mood to share television time, there was none. If they couldn’t share a toy, it became mine until they could. My kids are far from perfect, even with a touch of “tough love”, yet they are kind to one another and patient with others.
Families with young kids often speak of how they fear for the world when their kids grow. Has anyone explained to them that paper comes from trees? Do they not comprehend that their trash becomes waste and colored pictures sit in landfills for years to decompose?. Yet everyone wants to carry fancy reusable water bottles and drive hybrid cars and plant trees on Earth Day. Amusing as the miniscule aspects account for a lot of what may go awry ten years from now.
My favorite are the sports teams who dine with us. All twelve kids need their own mat, which is torn into shreds and used as confetti, while they play Subway Surfers on tablets their parents carry. Or the birthday parties of six members with food-covered mats and no conversations had because everyone is too busy posting sundae photos to Instagram and checking-in on Hangouts. If digital dining is predetermined, maybe forego the mats so someone else might enjoy them.
My point is, let kids be kids. Let them yell when they’re young. Let them scroll when they’re older. If they yell, remove them from the table so they learn manners. If they prefer to watch YouTube, pick something as a family. Spend time together, quality over quantity. The meltdowns pass and our red cheeks fade. Children also learn by example. I can’t speak for everybody, but I know I work hard at being a positive role model.
So if you ask me for five mats and I give you a look, don’t assume I mean harm. I don’t. I’m not passing judgement because I don’t know you. Instead I do it because I care. I do it because I want you to care, too.