A teacher told me several years ago that one’s children model their behavior after the parents. That’s probably why my offspring express themselves with expletives. In fact my son recently described me in an essay as his “immoral mother”. Mercifully spouse is the angelic ying to the anarchical yang of my influence. Although our household might deviate from the norm with regard to vocabulary restrictions, we do model the love of a change in scenery. A change of school venue, new sports teams, exposure to new geography and in this case a new culture we believe hold great value in the development of flexibility, empathy, world view, and leadership. All of which will be critical for our children when they reach adulthood.
When faced with relentless new stimuli, one has a choice. Embark upon the day with humor or panic. Understand that all of the offspring will be watching closely ready to emulate your every move. Not only are they better at picking up language, they will imitate every nuance of facial expression, tone of voice, and body language. They will cry if you do.
The Tokyo Metro. The subway stations get so crowded during the morning rush hour that men with white gloves shove people in to the subway cars. It reminds me of pushing the clothes in to a suitcase in order to get it to close only in this case it’s human baggage? Anyway- you get my point- it’s busy.
It’s Day 2 in Japan. We need to get our Pasmo cards for the subway. There are machines outside each turnstyle for purchasing tickets and cards. These magic cards will allow us to travel the subway without buying a ticket each trip. We make a miraculous discovery- the machine talks in English! We buy one for me- I even get my name engraved on the card. We buy another for offspring #1. Once again, I misunderstand the money and instead of putting 1000 yen (about $10) on the card I put 10000 on the card (about $100). Commas would really help me better understand the denominations. Now I don’t have enough money to get offspring #3 a card and this was hard earned cash! It took all day the previous day to find an ATM that would take my card and speak English.
The offspring watch me carefully. I unclench my teeth and smile encouragingly. “Well- the good news -Offspring #1 won’t have to refill for a while and I know where the ATM is to get more money.” The offspring relax.
Offspring # 1 is so excited to have something to put in his new wallet. “Mom- will the Pasmo work through the wallet”
Me: “I don’t know- I’d try it out of the wallet first- it’s really crowded right now”
OS #1 “K”
Offspring #1 trots over to the turnstile and intead of swiping his card over the Pasmo reader, inserts it in to the ticket slot. Every turnstile immediately closes. All the Japanese business men on the other side running to get out are now stuck. They pile up like some sort of human log jam. They are not happy and now all looking at Offspring #1. Panic stricken he turns to me. I start to laugh. Hysterical, loud, over the top laughter. Here was my son on one side of the turnstile and what looked to be about 50 angry, stuck Japanese business men on the other.
All of the sudden, a man in a uniform runs over, yanks the card out of the slot on the other side AND RUNS OFF WITH MY $100- err Pasmo card. Now it’s my turn to decide whether to laugh or cry. I whip out my Pasmo and swipe faster than a speeding bullet train. If I’m as fast as an Olympic sprinter I can catch the running uniformed man.(I don’t know why he’s running) The offspring are watching me in disbelief. I holler back “Don’t go anywhere- wait for me there” and yell after the uniformed man “Pardoname”. Spanish from a previous life. He’s running towards a door that looks like an entrance inaccessible to me. “Hai” comes next out of my mouth. That means “yes” in Japanese. This stops him. It doesn’t make sense in this environment- I might be dangerous. He stops to investigate.
We have a pantomiming session. (Please don’t play me charades.) I get my $100 – I mean the card back.
I return to find the offspring anxiously hanging over the turnstiles watching for me. I smile and wave the Pasmos in the air. They turn away as if they don’t know me. All is normal again.
We laugh. We laugh about the new Pasmo being eaten, we laugh about the mad Japanese men being late for work because of Offspring #1, we laugh about Offspring #1 trying to blame me for him putting his card in the wrong spot, and we really laugh at me jumping through the turnstile to run after the Metro official. They learn that no one died because the turnstyles were shut for 2 minutes. They learned that it’s more fun to laugh about the mishaps that will invariably occur every day than to cry about them. That makes life much more entertaining.
Moving Lesson #4: Model the Behavior One Wants the Offspring to Emulate