Making Connections

March 23rd, 2009 by Ann

Because I travel a lot, I often observe some pretty amazing things in airports and airplanes. Many of these “amazing” observations don’t exactly make my heart sing, so it was particularly refreshing to have an experience recently that did. I believe it helps to share such stories, especially considering the not-so-great news that bombards us from every direction.

Not long ago, a coworker and I were trying to make a tight connection at the end of a particularly grueling trip. As our plane pulled up to the jet way, my colleague bemoaned, “our next flight has already boarded.” We were seated in the back of the airplane, so it looked pretty hopeless that we’d make our connecting flight. But a girl who was part of a group of teenagers traveling home from an FFA convention overheard the comment and took it upon herself to organize her large party to stay seated and let us get off before them. This gesture allowed us to skip ahead 30 people, enabling us to make our flight by the skin of our teeth.

Now, as most of us know, the teenage years can be difficult ones. So many times the kids get a bad rap. More often than not, what you read about them is less than complimentary, especially compared to the endearing infant and toddler years when we can’t get enough of our kids’ cuteness, can’t stop taking pictures, and want to capture every moment. But things change through the years: we, they, the world. Expectations become more complex, and how our teenagers choose to be in the world affects a wider and wider circle of others with whom we share this planet.

I recently ran across a quote from Dr. Benjamin Spock that got my attention: “In automobile terms, the child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering.” Without parents who showed by example how to be gracious, how to be patient, and how to be considerate of others, these teenagers on our flight would have never even thought of allowing us to deplane before them. But kudos to them and those who raised them! In this generation of “It’s all about me,” I believe it’s more important than ever for parents to live in a way that demonstrates that it isn’t “all about me.” It’s about all of us, together, connected and aware that we are all in this together.

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3 Responses to “Making Connections”

  1. Janet at Chinaberry Says:

    Hi Polly,

    Boy, do I ever agree with you regarding your word of caution! In fact, I was just thinking about this subject the other day when I overheard some elementary school teachers talking about some unruly kids in class. You can imagine how I felt when they chalked it all up to poor parenting! Nine years ago, when I was in the thick of some pretty tough (and that is so an understatement!) parenting times, I wrote a piece to offer comfort to other parents. (Really, I think I was writing it to comfort myself too since I had no idea what our future would bring. At that time, I could only hope for better days.) Anyway, I’d like to post what I wrote back in 2000 again in hopes that it might help other parents who feel that things aren’t turning out quite like they “planned.”[See today's post]

    I’m ecstatic to report that while my daughter and I are two very different people, we’re very close today, and I’m proud of the young woman she has become — a wonderful mother of 5-year-old Tristin and a very talented, passionate and hard-working vet tech at an emergency clinic. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on my parenting journey, it’s what you wrote, Polly — that kids are not “all about us!” They DO have a will of their own, and all we can do is set a good example, provide them with the best resources we can, and have faith that everything will turn out for the best. My heart aches for the parents of “prodigal” kids because I’ve been there, but I do want to encourage you to hang in there and know that there are plenty of other GOOD parents out there who can relate. Thanks for bringing this topic up, Polly. Wishing you all the best, Janet

    Janet and daughter

  2. Polly Burroughs Says:

    I am very pleased to read about this. It’s always wonderful to read heart-warming stories, especially those that affirm young people who are making a difference with their lives. I do, however, want to offer a word of caution about some assumptions that are very common, and to offer a word of comfort to parents who have tried their best but have kids who just aren’t turning out this way.

    Just as we, as caring parents, want our kids to know it’s not “all about me”, we also need to know that for ourselves. It would be nice to suppose that our teaching and the good example we set is what’s responsible for our kids’ good manners, caring attitudes, etc.; but what do we think when we HAVE set that good example and they don’t follow it? -in fact, go hard against it?

    And haven’t we all seen stellar kids with impeccable behavior whose parents, we know, have set a terrible example, making us wonder what happened? Perhaps some of the kids on this very airplane were kids like that, who knows? Let’s not pat ourselves on the back or beat ourselves up too much- kids are not just wet cement, and they’re not “all about us”. Of course, we must do the best we can to know that we are blameless if things don’t go well. But the truth is that our kids have a will of their own and sometimes resist our best (or worst!) efforts to teach and set an example.

    If you’re a parent of a prodigal, a parent who has done everything you know to do, and you’re beating yourself up with “what did I do wrong?”, remember this:
    Adam and Eve walked and talked in person with God, their perfect Parent, but still rebelled and chose to follow the wrong way instead of the way He showed them.

    Thanks for this opportunity- I know this is not the topic you intended, but I have done my own share of self-congratulations before finally coming to understand this truth. I wanted to share it with others, especially those who read articles like this with despair under a load of undeserved shame for the way their teens choose to behave.

  3. Lisa Hedrick Says:

    Not only kudos to the parents, but I’d like to take one moment to tell you how FFA contributes to the respect and courtesy you saw in FFA students.

    Leadership, personal responsibility and strong lessons about how they are connected to and responsible to their community are the bedrock of FFA Agricultural Education. These kids know all about volunteering, contributing and being grown up often beyond their years.

    I’ve seen 55,000 of these kids at one time, and they are just as great and wonderful to be around as the 30 you saw on your flight. They step up, stand out and make all of us working at the FFA very proud of them every day.

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