Day ten: There is nothing like being stuck in a tiny space with your kids to show you where your parenting skills need work and where your parenting skills are bearing good fruit in your children’s lives. In many ways the past week and a half has felt like we are living in a fishbowl where everyone can peer through the glass and see our family round the clock. Whether it is neighbors, housekeeping, front desk or maintenance, there are plenty of people around to watch our family at all hours of the day or night.
Sometimes we have neighbors in the room next door or across the hall. Then, I worry they hear all that is going on in our room. If I know some of the rooms around us are occupied, I try to keep the noise down in our suite, hoping not to disturb anyone. Keeping kids quiet all the time is quite a task. We also see the guests in the hallways and breakfast.
Just this afternoon, I had to take Moses out for a potty break. He had to go right during our lunch so I got his leash and the girls and I went mid-lunch to take him out. We ran into a guest in the hallway and I instantly realized I should have wiped our youngest daughter’s face before we left our room. She had been eating blackberries at lunch and thought it was funny to take the blackberries, put them up to her eyes and pretend she had blackberries for eyes. It was cute, but messy. When we were talking with the other guest, I realized our young blackberry comedian looked like she had been in a boxing match or fallen down a flight of stairs. She looked like she had two black eyes. I tried to think of a way to creatively work into our conversation an explanation why her face looked so bruised, but could not come up with anything without it being awkward. So, I just prayed the guest would not notice. The guest was busy chatting about and petting our puppy so I do not think he noticed. Of course a few hours after the fact, I realized I probably could have said something like, “Yeah, Moses is great to have around. He does a great job cleaning up after these two. I bet he will love to clean up the blackberries off my daughter’s face once we are back from his potty break.”
Then, there is housekeeping. They get an intimate, up-close look at our rooms every time they come in to clean. On the days I know housekeeping is coming, I frantically dash around tidying up. I clean throughout the day, but the puppy is constantly pulling toilet paper off the roll and shredding it about the rooms. The girls have their limited supply of toys out and about, and seems just before housekeeping arrives the girls decide to pull out all their toys or clothes. Despite my diligence in attempting to keep up with my two girlies and the puppy, it seems there is always just one more thing to pick up.
The front desk has been quite helpful and friendly, but the front desk staff can hear when our girls choose not to obey us and instead take off running and squealing down the hotel halls. This happens about once a day. They also see our children at breakfast where my husband and I daily work with our children on eating the foods they were given. I am sure the front desk has heard us often tell our children something like, “No, you cannot have a chocolate covered donut for breakfast” or “Please do not dump your milk all over your eggs or drink syrup right from the bottle.” Actually, a few of the front desk employees have chatted with me about having to tell their kids the very same thing, so I know this is not just my imagination. They have admitted to me they have heard us at our breakfast table.
One of the front desk clerks also saw us last night when we requested a new room key. I had forgotten to lock the upper bolt on our door and our daughter opened our door for Moses to go “out”. Moses dashed out the door and down the hall. I darted after him and the girls darted out after me, laughing hysterically. All four of us ended up locked out of our room just as our pizza delivery guy (yes, I caved a second time and ordered pizza) was coming down the hall. Moses made it down two hallways and nearly to the front desk before I caught him (I was delayed in my chase because I had stop and politely tell the delivery guy to wait just a minute, we would be right back). The pizza guy was very kind and thought the whole thing was hilarious. I do too, in hindsight.
This adventure has been a humbling experience. We are not used to living our life around so many people. For the most part, I have enjoyed the interaction with others. Most people have been gracious when our children are not behaving as well as they should. Many, many people have congratulated us on our children. Not because of anything special our children did. They merely congratulated us on having children. The first time it happened, I did not know what to say. I was surprised. I have heard parents congratulated right after a child is born, but never a few years after a child is born.
After staying here several days, I realized our children are just about the only children here. In ten days, we have only seen three other families with children. Two of those stayed just one night. The other family has been here for a few days I think. There are several guests who have been here quite some time for whatever reason. These “regulars” have wholeheartedly accepted our children and seem to enjoy having them around to observe. I do not think it is because we have exceptional children. I think it is because these people, who are living away from their homes, are not used to seeing children around. They have laughed at our children’s antics and sympathized with us when our children were having trouble sleeping because of the fire alarm.
I tend to think of life in a fishbowl as people always looking at us being critical. In our “regular” non-hotel life, we have always tried to be transparent with those around us. We have an open door policy at our house and often have people over. We have the same expectations for our children in public and in private.
One of the greatest blessings of this trip is being able to see how others view our children. Peering into our glass fishbowl, they see children. Little people who are able to bring joy, laughter and a smile to the face of even the grouchiest of guests without even trying. Children bring wonder back to our lives.
As a mom, I often lose sight of the beauty of childhood. It gets lost in the daily grind of cleaning up mucky messes, training, and making sure everyone is healthy, clean and fed. At times it is hard for me to pull my head out of all thousands of details involved in taking care of children and look at the big picture.
Life in a fishbowl is not just people staring in at us. It is also us staring back out at them. Instead of the critical eyes, I almost always expect to see, I saw eyes that, for the most part, recognized something in my children that I often overlook or take for granted: their value as children. I love my children. I do. Allow me to explain. These people saw my children from outside the fishbowl. They saw our children for who they are as people. They did not see our children in light of how many things need to be done to to take care of them or what areas of our children’s character need strengthening. Outside the fishbowl, these people saw our children simply as children and that, I must say, is refreshing and rejuvenating. I need to do a better job of balancing these two perspectives.
This adventure has also shown us areas where our diligence in parenting our children a certain way has brought forth good fruit in our children’s hearts. I have noticed more than ever the various character attributes of each of our children. Indeed, it seems those attributes have been magnified during our stay in our itty-bitty hotel suite. Much like being able to see the big picture, knowing our children better is always a wonderful thing. Even if there are areas of our children’s character that need work, knowing our children and how they tick gives us a better idea of how to parent them. It takes spending time with our children to know them and since we have had a lot of extra time here, I feel as if we know our children better than when we arrived.
So, here at the end of day ten, I am thankful for:
-Lots of one-on-one time together
-Somehow being able to laugh instead of cry during some of the more challenging moments of our trip
-Slow blinks and sleepy smiles
-Chance to workout on some fancy equipment
-Squeals of laughter from our girls
-All the crazy and brilliant ways our girls have decided to amuse themselves while we are here