I saw her approaching us out of the corner of my eye.
I knew our table was her destination, as we were situated at the back of the cafe and there was no where else to go.
We’d been sitting there for about 90 minutes, eating lunch and biding time whilst Caz was at an appointment in downtown Albany.
I’m not a raving fan of Dome Cafes by any means, they’re a cafe chain over here in Western Australia, but they get a pass mark for having decent coffee and a never ending supply of crayons and colouring in paper, you know, the important stuff when your cafe bumming with kids.
And at least they’re a step up from McDonalds.
Flying solo as a parent with a three and seven year old, in a cafe, is not my first choice of a lunch date. I’d much prefer to grab takeaway and eat at the park, or the beach, so they have space, and hell, so do I.
But here I was just doing the best I could to keep the peace. When the little old lady reached the head of our table, I had know idea what she was about to say.
Had Savannah or Kalyra been unknowingly bothering her as they trekked back and forth to the colouring in station? Were my kids too rowdy and disturbing the piece, unbeknown to me as I’m accustomed to the constant chatter and movement?
But she simply said this:
Little old lady: “Excuse me, I’d just like to compliment you on the behaviour of your children and the way they have conducted themselves. They look like best friends and you’re a lucky dad.
Me: Why thank you very much, that’s a lovely thing to say.
Little old lady: I come here often and usually the kids are running around crazy and making one hell of a racket, but I’m impressed at how well your kids have sat still and eaten their lunch and enjoyed their time here.
Me: Well thank you for taking the time to come over and say that, I hope you have a wonderful day!
My posture straightened and I felt a sense of pride and gratitude.
As a parent you want nothing more than to raise happy, respectful children. But, you constantly doubt your ability to do so.
My kids are good kids, sweet with their heart in the right place, but they’re three and seven and can lose it like any three and seven year old can, especially when they’re tired, hungry or bored.
And there’s nothing worse than when it happens in a public place like a cafe, or on a plane, or when they have a complete meltdown in the most important temple in Bangkok.
You second guess decisions you make and probably even more so when you choose to whisk them away from any kind of stability and throw them in a 6 x 3 metre campervan to travel the country.
Am I damaging them? Will this affect their social skills? Will they grow up resenting me for taking away games of hide and seek with their neighbourhood friends?
It’s nice to have some positive feedback once in a while from those you don’t know, as we do question ourselves on occasion if we’re doing the best we can as parents, if we’re being the best role models for our kids, and if this life of travel, homeschooling, and running our business on the road is really for the best.
I remember one time at the caravan park in Broome, the ladies at reception commented on how beautifully our girls played together. They’d been watching them for the five weeks we stayed there through the windows.
“They just play so beautifully together. We watch them put on dancing and singing performances and creating things from branches and boxes. It’s so rare that we see that these days”
I was pleasantly surprised to hear this because it’s hard for us to know as we’re always just stuck in the moment of being a parent, and sometimes all you can see is the bickering and complaining.
That little old lady didn’t have to take the time to walk over to me, she didn’t have to say what she did, but those few words she whispered brightened my day like she’ll never know.
It helped to soften my guard and understand that not everyone is out there determined to growl and bring you down.
Sure, we make mistakes as parents, but I think this trip is helping us to fill in the gaps somehow and raise children who can adapt to any situation and make the most of it.
I’m so grateful to that little old lady for taking the time to tell me something positive about my children. Sometimes its the little things that mean so much.
And it’s good for my kids to hear it too, to have positive reinforcement from a stranger on good social behaviour.
When was the last time a stranger brightened your day?
How did it make you feel?