Summer vacation 2014. Still waiting for a call from social services. I don’t think the security cameras at Food Lion will be able to track my whereabouts since my wife paid cash, following the sudden eruption of violence between my son and me outside the checkout line.
Let’s travel back in time a few moments to the events leading up to the Food Lion incident. Get out of bed at 4am, 11 hours on the road to Nags Head, NC. 10:30am breakfast, arrive at an empty cupboard beach house at 4:30 without any further meals.
Great plan, all the moms in our group make a trip to the supermarket and dads can order pizza. The only problem with this is that over half the people vacationing here arrive on the island between 3 & 5 on Saturday (and arrive hungry). Can’t even get through on the phone to order a pizza. “That’s ok. I can just drive to the Yellow Submarine and order it and wait for it.” (first mistake). My 8 year-old son decides to go with me. (second mistake? nah). Very busy place. We are told it will be a 45 minute wait for our order. No problem.
We decide to walk next door to the supermarket to find my wife and make sure the balance of junk food and health food doesn’t tip too far in the health food direction. She is already in the checkout line with a full buggy. As we approach and say hello, it happens. Kal suddenly turns like Big John Studd and head butts me in the gut (a growling empty stomach). It feels like a hit below the belt and I flash back to my junior year of high school in 1985 when boys drilled each other in the nuts for entertainment. I reacted just like any 16 year-old would…….I punched Kal in the back…..right there in Food Lion……in the checkout line…..the 10-deep checkout line.
Talking quietly and deliberately to him even though my teeth were clenched tightly together, “I have told you to never do that to me!”
The look of horror on my wife’s face just said, “oh mercy, we’re gonna get our kids taken away”. She might have possibly scolded me at this point, but maybe not…….
Kal and I turned and left Food Lion. Both of us realized we had done something we shouldn’t have. We killed a few minutes at Dunkin Donuts and returned to Yellow Submarine to wait for our order, sitting at a booth just inside the door. It become evident that there was no way our order would be ready in 45 minutes.
My “how to be a better dad” instincts were on high alert now after the head-butt/back-punch incident. I soon forgot about my travel exhaustion, growling belly, and headache that was coming on fast from not eating. As I sat across the booth from my child, this precious gift from God, looking into his innocent eyes, questions started racing through my mind:
1) What kind of adult do I hope and pray that he will become?
2) How the heck can his mother and me lead him to be the person he needs to be?
3) Am I truly paying close enough attention to being the best dad I can be every minute of every day.
And almost comically, teaching moments seemed to come in waves in the coming moments (for both of us) as a large and very rude and impatient crowd had gathered around our booth waiting to pick up their orders.
“Dad, I’m starving. When’s our food gonna be ready?” (“You’re hungry son. You’re not starving. There are a lot of people in this world who will die because they have nothing to eat and lots who will eat nothing at all today. We are thankful that we are going to be eating soon.) A lesson in GRATITUDE.
People over our shoulder griping about being told it would take 40 minutes but it’s taking an hour. “Son, I wonder what those people are gonna do with that extra 20 minutes they’re complaining about…..must be something pretty special.” Yeah, I know. Like my wife, you question the value of a little perspective of sarcastic wit? A lesson in figuring out the reality of situations.
People over our shoulder, “This is ridiculous. Let’s just cancel our order and get our money back.” (“Hey Kal, maybe if they cancel their order, we can buy their food at a discounted price. I’m sure somebody back at the house will want it.” **Always find a bright side, squash negativity, even if it’s not your own.** A lesson in being POSITIVE.
People over our shoulder demanding that the counter help go back to the kitchen to find out how much longer their order will be (when they are abviously overwhelmed) “Kal, what if every single one of these people waiting here did that? If we did that, wouldn’t it be like jumping up and saying we are more important than everybody else?” A lesson in HUMILITY.
People over our shoulder basically just being mean to the workers, “Kal, these people are doing the best they can. They might be able to take care of 50 orders in an hour and they’ve had 100 come in. They are doing the best they can. It doesn’t matter if we wait here for another hour, WE ARE GOING TO BE KIND!” (and I said it loud enough to embarrass some of the grumblers into hushing……….but I regret not doing more to defend some of these young folks who really were working hard). A lesson in KINDNESS and putting ourselves in other people’s shoes.
“Dad, do you think we’ll have to wait much longer?” Strangely enough, if I hadn’t punched him in the back, I most likely would have answered his questions differently, like a simple, “hush son, I don’t know, I’m STARVING too”. But instead I just answered his final question with “probably not much longer buddy. If you’re bored, you can play games on my phone or we can walk around and look at some of the neat stuff on the walls.” His reply, “Nah, I’m good”. Little lessons learned I think.
Picked up my order, made a big production out of smiling and loudly thanking the workers and putting money in the tip jar (almost had to push the rude folks out of the way to do so).
The right way becomes so easy to see after you’ve painfully chosen the wrong way. And sometimes it’s good to have strangers around to remind you how not to act when you’re eager to share wisdom with your kids.