Our first few weeks back from India, we stayed in my dad’s vacant oceanfront condo on Jupiter Island. The accommodations, though rustic, were seemingly idyllic, but marked a low-point in our transition back to the U.S. We get to spend a few weeks in an oceanfront condo for free! What could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot, as we came to find out. I chalk it up now to a particularly deep trough in what was a particularly turbulent transition. Though we didn't see it at the time.
It didn’t help that we felt like trespassers. It was nothing that my dad or any of the other residents specifically said or did, and everyone at the front desk went out of their way to be nice to us. I think they were just glad to see kids in the building. But Elise and I were especially acute to the fact that there were no other kids in the building. In that, we stuck out like sore thumbs. It wasn’t quite snowbird season yet, and half the building was empty. The other half was filled with retirees, and Elise and I were scared to death we were going to get kicked out onto the street.
It didn’t help that the kids seemed to be crying, wrestling, screaming, or fighting constantly and at such volumes they were undoubtedly heard on every one of the building’s 12 floors. We had to institute what we called “lobby behavior”, a code of comportment reserved for military recruits and marching bands.
Whenever we exited or entered the building, the kids were to be on “lobby behavior”, completely silent, hands in pockets, no touching anyone or anything. Such was our fear of being outed as we walked through the lobby. I could picture it now…a bony, withered finger pointing at us excoriatingly, trembling with age, followed by a raspy voice, “What. Is. That!? Is. That. A. Child?!”
Fortunately, we have had to re-institute lobby behavior on only a small number of occasions since. Such as our stay in the Hampton Inn in Everett which turned out not to be the easiest stay either. Not because we didn’t enjoy Everett or the Hampton Inn’s free breakfast, it was, in hindsight, perhaps one move too many for the kids. Or me.
One of the main reasons we haven’t had to resort to threats of lobby behavior is because our greatest instigator, the ringleader of the bunch, has turned a corner with his own behavior. I'm, of course, referring to Sam. Shortly after our arrival in Falls Church, Elise instituted a program wherein acts of spontaneous kindness are rewarded with “kindness quarters”. Peter earned a kindness quarter yesterday for holding the door open for Clementine. Sam earned a kindness quarter for reminding Mom Clem had ballet. The acts of kindness must not be premeditated or come about in the normal course of one's chores. That is to say, you can't get a kindness quarter for clearing your breakfast plate and putting it in the sink. But still, they all will soon have a small mint with all the kindness quarters they are earning.
On Sunday, Peter slammed his knee into a wall (this happens to everyone more often than it should. It seems like we all are stubbing toes and upsetting framed art from their perches on shelves. Our house is not big, but our movements are, I guess). Elise put him on the couch with a frozen bag of edamame wrapped in a kitchen towel, and Sam ran to their room to get Pete his stuffed animals. Random Act of Kindness, Part III. These random acts of kindness are becoming more the rule than the exception.
All our kids are the best at something. In Sam, I have always sensed he had the greatest capacity for kindness and thoughtfulness, and I am glad to see him finally living up to his potential.