On our last day in Hawaii, a family of six plopped down on the beach next to us. I didn’t really notice them much at first, which was surprising being there were four children under the age of seven.
Eventually I looked up from my book to see the dad playing in the water with three of the children. All of them appeared extremely comfortable in the shallow yet choppy waters. Mom soon joined the clan with their youngest, age three, and after seeing that everyone was having a great time, she—get this—went for a leisurely ocean swim while Dad played with the kiddos.
As far as I’m aware, there are no Olympic Games for parenting. But if there were, these people would have stood on the medal stand. And as the morning went by my early suspicions became even more solidified. After playing for a while as a family, the parents both sat down and read books while the little ones played in the sand together quietly.
At one point my own mother chatted with each of the parents, complimenting their children’s strong swimming skills.
“Thank you m’am,” the husband said. “We’re very lucky.”
I’ll be honest—I raised my eyebrows a bit when I heard his response. It seemed very evident to me that luck has nothing to do with it. Swimming is a learned skill. Certainly the parents have made it a priority to teach their kids how to survive in the water. He was simply being humble. I liked him even more than I already did.
Hours later, I sat on a five hour flight home with our 13 month old. We happened to have an extra seat next to us. That, combined with the boatload of snacks and entertainment I’d prepared, made it seem like we’d have a fairly easy time keeping her happy. I truly and honestly believed we’d help her to fall asleep at her normal bedtime and she would happily stay that way for the majority of the flight.
And when she did not, and when the cries began, I flashed back to all of the times I have sat on flights, plugging my ears and judging the parents of crying children. “Why do they even fly?” I’d ask in exasperation. Or, “Obviously their kid doesn’t sleep well/nap well/eat well/behave well, otherwise this wouldn’t be happening.”
As Anna thrashed and turned, eager for a comfortable crib that we couldn’t provide her, I looked at the little one year old boy behind us, sleeping peacefully on his dad’s lap.
And you know what I thought to myself?
Sometimes you just get lucky.